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Militants ban rally for Hussein in Fallujah

FALLUJAH, Iraq -- Islamic militants prevented a group of Saddam Hussein loyalists from holding a planned march yesterday intended to show solidarity for the ousted Iraqi dictator.

About 20 cars filled with armed, masked guerrillas who refer to themselves as mujahideen, or holy warriors, forced about 100 people gathered for the rally to disperse.

Islamic radicals were frequently targeted by Hussein and they harbor little sympathy for the former leader, who appeared before a court last week.

"God gave victory to Fallujah because it's a Muslim [city], because it's applying Islamic law," one of the militants said, according to witnesses. "We don't want our victory to go to Saddam."

Hard-line Islamic insurgents spearheaded the resistance against US-led coalition forces in the city, and their struggle has cemented their credentials in the area, even though Iraq's Sunni Muslim minority formed the core of Hussein's support base.

Fallujah, 30 miles west of Baghdad, sits in the heart of the so-called Sunni Triangle. The area has become a hornet's nest of Islamic insurgency since US Marines pulled back after a bloody, three-week siege on the city in April.

After the siege, the military handed security of the city over to a new "Fallujah Brigade" made up largely of local residents and commanded by officers of Hussein's former army.

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