In the small town Hilla, an hour's drive south of Baghdad, blood stains a wall at the office of the Babylon Human Rights Organization. It was here that US soldiers raided a community meeting where they killed the two sheikhs and arrested two other important community leaders.
It was a meeting called for peace, members say. "All types of power was represented," says a member at the meeting, Sayyed Fadel al-Moosvi. "The political parties, and scientists, and religious men. They were trying to figure out what's happening around us. They were discussing everything that was happening in Hilla. They were studying what's happening in our country."
The main goal of the meeting was to find ways of dealing with US occupation without resorting to violence, members of the human rights group say. This was a regular topic of discussion at meetings of this organization, and this was known to US officials, they say.
A few months earlier, hawkish US Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz had visited the offices of the human rights organization to praise its efforts. Hazen al-Safi from the group used to be proud of a photograph showing him shaking hands with Wolfowitz. He feels differently now.
"We were peaceful," he tells IPS. "We just had pens and paper, but they came with a whole bunch of arms." Hazen says 15 US soldiers ordered everyone down on the ground and ran to the podium to arrest the speaker Sayyed Adnan Onaibi, head of Muqtada al-Sadr's office in Hilla.
They placed a black hood over his head and then turned towards the two sheikhs in a nearby hallway. "They shot them in the head," Hazem says. "They shot him them right where they were standing and you can see from the blood that they shot them from just one or two metres away."