BAGHDAD, Feb. 13, 2008 – Abas Rashed lives in Arab Jabour, 20 miles southeast of the Iraqi capital, and is a member of the local “Sons of Iraq” security group made up of local residents. He patrols the streets of his community and watches for insurgent activities, he said, because he knows the damage insurgents can do firsthand.

Before the insurgents entered this farming community with a Sunni Muslim majority, he said, the people in Arab Jabour worked together. Despite their differences, Sunni and Shiite shared a common desire to see their children grow up in a better environment and in peace. He said he believes that the insurgency, in an attempt to stir up violence against coalition forces, exploited differences between the two sects.

Yassen Kodaier Hussein, a Sunni living in Arab Jabour, said he once had Shiia neighbors until the insurgency moved in. Hussein also said he believes insurgents tried to set the people apart.

“At first we rebuffed any difference,” he said. “So they tried to make difference apparent.” The differences were spelled out in both Shiite and Sunni blood, he said.

“They killed both sides to make a problem,” Hussein said of the sectarian violence that drove many families from their homes. “We didn’t see this problem until they came. They interfered with our lives.”

The Sons of Iraq helped change the security situation, said Army Capt. Joseph Inge, commander of Company D, 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment. “It has been a total ‘180,’” he said.

For the first time in months, Arab Jabour is beginning to look and feel as it did before insurgents arrived. Hussein said he is encouraged by the number of families returning home.

“I want to imagine a unified Iraq, one Iraq free from outside interference,” he said. “We have to stop the militias — work together to finish off the militias.”

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BAGHDAD, Feb. 13, 2008 - Abas Rashed lives in Arab Jabour, 20 miles southeast…