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The Associated Press
Friday 09 July 2004
Baghdad - Contrary to U.S. government claims, the insurgency in Iraq is led by well-armed Sunnis angry about losing power, not foreign fighters, and is far larger than previously thought, American military officials say.
The officials told The Associated Press the guerrillas can call on loyalists to boost their forces to as high as 20,000 and have enough popular support among nationalist Iraqis angered by the presence of U.S. troops that they cannot be militarily defeated.
That number is far larger than the 5,000 guerrillas previously thought to be at the insurgency's core. And some insurgents are highly specialized - one Baghdad cell, for instance, has two leaders, one assassin, and two groups of bomb-makers.
Although U.S. military analysts disagree over the exact size, the insurgency is believed to include dozens of regional cells, often led by tribal sheiks and inspired by Sunni Muslim imams.
The developing intelligence picture of the insurgency contrasts with the commonly stated view in the Bush administration that the fighting is fueled by foreign warriors intent on creating an Islamic state.