Iraqi tribes battle Qaeda in Anbar
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant seized areas in Anbar’s Ramadi and Fallujah cities
Some Iraqi tribes battled al-Qaeda-linked militants on Thursday after the jihadist group seized control of some parts of cities belonging to Anbar province, Al Arabiya correspondent reported Thursday.
The tribesmen were trying to stop the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) from further advancing in Ramadi city in the Sunni stronghold governorate, the correspondent said, adding that clashes were heard from a distance.
An interior ministry official also told AFP that ISIL militants were on Thursday in control of half of another city in Anbar, Fallujah.
“Half of Fallujah is in the hands of ISIL group, and the other half is in the control of armed tribesmen,” the official said.
A witness in the city west of Baghdad said that militants had set up checkpoints each manned by six to seven people in central and south Fallujah.
“In Ramadi, it is similar -- some areas are controlled by ISIL and other areas are controlled by” tribesmen, the interior ministry official said, referring to the Anbar provincial capital, which lies farther to the west.
An AFP journalist in Ramadi saw dozens of trucks carrying heavily-armed men driving in the city’s east, playing songs praising ISIL.
Lyrics included “The Islamic State remains,” and “Our State is victorious.”
The militants also carried black flags bearing the words “Allah Rassul Mohammed,” which are frequently flown by jihadist groups.
Battling the jihadist group comes after Islamist militants stormed police stations in several cities of Iraq’s western province of Anbar on Wednesday, seizing weapon caches and freeing prisoners.
The attacks on three police stations in Fallujah, Ramadi and Tarmiya represent a serious escalation in the confrontation between Iraqi Sunni groups and the Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
Sunni anger at the government’s crushing of a protest movement has inflamed Iraq’s already deeply rooted sectarian tensions. The camp dismantled on Monday has been seen as an irritant to Maliki since it was set up to protest against perceived Sunni marginalization a year ago.
“Gunmen in large numbers surrounded the three police stations in Fallujah and forced all policemen to leave without their weapons if they wanted to spare their lives. All of us left, we didn't want to die for nothing,” a policeman stationed at one of the three stations told Reuters.
The gunmen then took control of a local government building nearby, deploying snipers on its roof to prevent the security forces from retaking command of the police stations in Fallujah, 50 kilometers west of Baghdad.
Clashes between gunmen and security officials in Ramadi, another city in Anbar, continued for a third day on Wednesday, and also involved assaults on police stations by militants driving vehicles mounted with machine guns.
Wednesday’s attacks began only hours after a decision by Anbar’s governor to lift a curfew imposed on Monday after fighting had erupted in various parts of the province.
Maliki had said the civilian police force could resume control over Anbar’s security, but that decision was changed after an appeal by the province’s governor.
Violence in Iraq has hit its highest levels since the sectarian fighting of 2006-7, which killed tens of thousands of people.
More than 8,000 people have been killed in such violence this year.
(With AFP and Reuters)