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Who are the Fedayeen? - 2003-03-30

U.S. commanders are clearly concerned about the vulnerability of their long supply lines into Iraq. The biggest danger is the Fedayeen; the militias that Donald Rumsfeld says are death squads which have attempted to ambush U.S. convoys moving north towards Baghdad. But just who are the Fedayeen?

Most have switched to civilian disguise. They are Iraq's hooded militia. Translated, that means “those who sacrifice themselves for Saddam.” The special militia was created in 1995 by Saddam's oldest son Uday. Roughly 40,000 strong, they report directly to the Presidential palace, and are said to be even more loyal than the vaunted republican guard.

Their strategy: guerrilla warfare. The Fedayeen are attacking coalition forces from the rear, then hiding in populated areas where it's tough for the U.S. to avoid civilian casualties. U.S. officials say the Fedayeen are threatening regular Iraqi units as well as civilians to force them to fight. And they're staging ambushes with fake surrenders. In one case, killing nine marines, and capturing five others.

Pentagon spokesperson Victoria Clark says the Fedayeen has done things that fall outside all military laws and norms.

“Which go to the brutality of the regime. And they are considered war crimes. And people that we can find and hold, they will be treated as such.”