U.S. soldiers heard some Samarra residents speak openly of the right of “legitimate resistance” to the American presence. Others admitted they could not cooperate with the Americans for fear of insurgent reprisals. Those fears vanished when one of their own leaders was slain. All of a sudden, Iraqis began coming forward with information about insurgent hide-outs and weapons caches. As of Saturday, Dec. 3, 2005, at least 2,127 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. At least 1,668 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military’s numbers. The figures include five military civilians. The AP count is two higher than the Defense Department’s tally, last updated at 10 a.m. EST Friday. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! SAMARRA, Iraq – After keeping their distance for months, Iraqis in this Sunni Arab city suddenly began cooperating with U.S. troops, leading them to insurgents and hidden weapons caches. The reason: anger over the assassination by insurgents of a local tribal chief. “That’s when they decided to make a stand,” said Capt. Ryan Wylie of Lincoln, Neb., commander of Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 69th Armored Regiment. “They definitely had an idea of the terrorists and where they hang out.” U.S. commanders cite other reasons for a lull in violence in this city 60 miles north of Baghdad. They include construction of an 11-mile berm around the city to block gun runners and a greater reliance by the military on covert monitoring positions. But almost everyone agrees that the biggest reason for the reduction in violence here was the public backlash against the insurgents after the Oct. 11 assassination of Sheik Hikmat Mumtaz al-Bazi, chief of one of the area’s seven tribes. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBlues bury Kings early with four first-period goals The reason for the killing remains unclear. Some say he was targeted for working with U.S. forces. Others believe he was killed because of a contract dispute over a U.S.-funded project. Most agree that the sheik’s American connection cost him his life. “They killed him to send a message that you can’t be working with coalition forces,” said Lt. Col. Mark Wald, commander of the 3rd Battalion. “I think they were trying to rein him back in.” Tribalism is deeply rooted in Iraqi society and adds a dimension to the insurgency that outsiders find difficult to understand. Some tribes support the insurgency, while others back the government. In many cases, tribes are divided in their loyalties. Before al-Bazi’s death, U.S. forces in Samarra had struggled to cope with the insurgent threat in this city of 200,000, many of whom strongly opposed the Shiite-led government in Baghdad. Last year, al-Qaida in Iraq, led by Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, openly operated in Samarra, and the group’s black flags fluttered from rooftops until U.S. forces regained control.