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Iraqi tribesmen recapture most of Anbar

Despite returning calm, clashes against al-Qaeda in some parts of the Sunni province of Anbar continue

Published: Updated:

Cautious calm has returned to Ramadi and Fallujah cities after Iraqi tribes recaptured the majority of the Sunni stronghold province from al-Qaeda-linked fighters, Al Arabiya correspondent reported.

Despite the returning calm, the correspondent citing local sources, said minor clashes between tribesmen and police against al-Qaeda-linked group persisted on Thursday in the Abu Bali area in Al-Khaldiya district, 20 kilometers east of Ramadi and in neighboring areas.

Local police made a return to the city as Iraqi forces are stationed on its outskirts.

Al-Maliki resisted sending in Iraqi troops to aid the tribesmen and police because of the long standing view in Anbar that his government is 'sectarian.'

Iraq confirmed that the army will not enter Fallujah in order to give tribesmen a “chance” to get rid the city of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) fighters from its northern and eastern areas.

On Wednesday, a military helicopter crashed in Anbar, leaving no survivors.

Al-Maliki’s government cited “technical problems” and “bad weather conditions” as reasons, calling the flight crew “martyrs.”

In a related story, a United States senator hinted that he might allow the transfer of AH-64 Apache helicopter to Iraq as Baghdad struggles to fully remove ISIL from Anbar, the New York Times reported Wednesday.

Iraq has urged the Obama administration to approve weapons sales to the country marred by increasing violence. However, Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, has blocked the lease and sale of the powerful attack helicopters for months.

Senator Menendez sought assurances that Iraq would not use U.S. weapons to attack civilians and that Baghdad would stop helping Iran ship arms to Syria’s military through its airspace.

According to the U.S. paper, Menendez will respond to al-Maliki after receiving a three-page letter last week from the Iraqi prime minister.

“The administration is now addressing concerns first raised in July that required responses before this sale could proceed,” the paper quoted Adam Sharon, the senator’s spokesman, as saying.

“Provided these issues are sufficiently addressed, Chairman Menendez will be ready to move forward.”

Vice President Joe Biden called Maliki for the second time Wednesday as U.S. pressure mounted on the Iraqi premier over the ISIL's surge in Anbar.

White House spokesman Jay Carney meanwhile said Washington was pressing al-Maliki, a Shiite, to focus on political reconciliation as well as taking military action to expel the al-Qaeda-inspired groups from Fallujah and Ramadi.

HRW slams abuses

Human Rights Watch on Thursday condemned abuses by all sides in the standoff in Anbar which has left more than 250 people dead and displaced 13,000 families.

“Apparently unlawful methods of fighting by all sides have caused civilian casualties and severe property damage,” AFP quoted the New York-based rights group as saying in a statement.

It criticized Iraqi forces for using what it alleged was indiscriminate mortar fire in civilian neighborhoods, and militants for deploying in and attacking from populated areas.

HRW also echoed concerns from the U.N. and other NGOs that a government blockade of Fallujah and Ramadi, the two largest cities in Anbar, was limiting access to key supplies of food, water and fuel.

The Red Crescent in Iraq reported that 13 thousand Iraqi families have fled Anbar.

The NGO said the families fled to the outskirts of Fallujeh, staying in schools and public buildings while others are residing with relatives they have there.

(With AFP)