There are growing signs of hostility between secular Iraqi insurgents and Muslim extremists — some of them foreigners — fighting under the banner of al-Qaida.
The factions have exchanged threats and are increasingly divided over the strategy of violence, much of it targeting civilians, that aims undermine the fragile new government.
In Ramadi, the capital of Anbar Province and a stronghold of the insurgency, homegrown Iraqi fighters have begun recently to air their differences in menacing fliers plastered on walls and distributed in mosques — making threats and denouncing the tactics of the extremists, according to witnesses who have seen the fliers.
Some of the fliers threaten reprisals against the militants or threaten to inform police of their identity and whereabouts. The extremists have not publicly responded, but residents say the fighters have kept a low profile since the appearance of the fliers in the Euphrates-side city and that some of them may have moved to the outskirts to avoid clashes.
Ramadi's insurgents argue that al-Qaida fighters are giving the resistance a bad name and demand they stop targeting civilians and kidnappings. Al-Qaida militants counter that Iraqis who join the army and police are "apostates" — Muslims who renounce their faith — and deserve to be killed.
"They have tarnished our image and used the jihad to make personal gains," said Ahmed Hussein, a 30-year-old mosque imam from Ramadi, speaking of al-Qaida fighters. "They have no legitimacy," said Hussein, who claims insurgency links but says he's not a fighter himself.
In Baghdad's mainly Sunni Azamiyah district, another insurgency hotbed, residents have repeatedly brought down from walls and street light poles the black banners of al-Qaida in Iraq.
The rift also involves Sunni Arab tribal leaders frustrated by the continuing violence. And it is being encouraged by Iraqi authorities in the hope that it would isolate the militants. Iraq's local TV channel, Al-Iraqiya has recently been showing nightly interviews with captured Iraqi insurgents and foreign fighters, many who speak of alleged links to Syrian intelligence.
Iraq's newly elected president, Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani, urged insurgents to sit down and talk with the new government, but he's made it clear his offer is exclusively available to homegrown Iraqi insurgents and not to extremists or foreign fighters.
"We must find political and peaceful solutions with those duped Iraqis who have been involved in terrorism and pardon them, and invite them to join the democratic process," Talabani said Thursday as he was sworn in at parliament. "But we must firmly counter and isolate the criminal terrorism that's imported from abroad and is allied with criminal Baathists."