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Time reporter: Iraqi resistance finely organized, cutthroat

Michael Ware
Michael Ware

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Attacks on coalition forces in Iraq are expected to increase leading up to the transfer of power in July, according to the top commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez.

Time magazine reporter Michael Ware gained exclusive access to the Iraqi insurgents, spending months with them for this week's cover story. Ware shared his experiences and observations Monday with CNN anchor Soledad O'Brien.

O'BRIEN: [You spent] three months with the insurgents, how did you gain access and were they initially fearful about talking to you?

WARE: Very much so. It's been a very slow process. A lot of gumshoe journalism, establishing trust with one contact, gaining trust with that person and then going on from one to the next. This large network, this sophisticated unit we have found came to me, asking specifically for me, on a recommendation, I'm thinking, from another resistance group.

O'BRIEN: At the same time, they must have assumed that as a reporter you would then take this story and make it public, or are you now worried about reprisals as the story is the cover story in Time, and you are making the rounds talking about this?

WARE: Well, this was the purpose for which they invited me in. They made this very clear. They said, "We want you to see everything. Come and watch, listen, report everything that you see and hear." They want to tell the world what's going on.

And what I saw was the first taste of what the American military has been hinting at, a greater degree of sophistication, an evolution in the guerrilla war. We're seeing a hard edge to some of the resistance fighters.

O'BRIEN: That's the second time you've used the word sophistication. It is a truly fascinating article. You write about the organization and the hierarchy. Is it loosely organized, or give me a sense exactly how it works from the inside.

WARE: Over the months, I spent a lot of time with a wide number of resistance groups, some of them very small and ad hoc, almost amateurish. This network, and I say network, stands out. This isn't just one cell, this is at least eight cells with individual commanders, probably more, answering up a chain of command that leads to a mysterious figure from the regime and perhaps indirectly even to Saddam.

They operate in a coordinated fashion, they gather intelligence, they do surveillance, and when they go out in the field, nothing is left to chance. Everything is finely organized and they are really well supplied.

O'BRIEN: So who are these guys? Are they the Saddam Fedayeen as we have heard? Are they Baathists? Are they foreign fighters? Are they a combination of them? If it's a bunch of different groups working in concert, who is in charge in the hierarchy?

WARE: The large network that I've just been with eschews working with any foreign fighters. They say "we can't trust them" and quite tellingly they say they're not trained enough or skilled enough.

These guys, some of them are from the Fedayeen. Indeed, the leader of this unit is a former Fedayeen. They're very cutthroat. These guys mean business and they're blood thirsty.

But the bulk of the commanders and the bulk of the fighters are former military, former intelligence, former security staff. These men are well trained and committed. The Fedayeen are fighting for revenge and for the dream that one day perhaps, Saddam fantastically might come back.

However the ex-military officers are fighting, as they say, for Iraq. Saddam or not, they want foreign occupiers off their soil and they're going about it with some precision. Certainly a lot more than we've seen before.

Time magazine is a unit of Time Warner, as is CNN.


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