Syria’s Deir al-Zour tribes prepare to fight ISIS

Tribes in the eastern province of Deir al-Zour expect an imminent attack from the jihadist group ISIS

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Tribes in the eastern Syrian province of Deir al-Zour have begun recruiting hundreds of fighters in readiness to battle rebels from the jihadist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Al Arabiya News Channel reported on Saturday.

Tribesmen in three villages in Deir al-Zour’s northern countryside issued a joint statement warning that whoever was helping ISIS will be targeted after the radical jihadist group claimed control of areas near the towns of al-Sour and Markada in the eastern province.

ISIS has been fighting the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front and other Islamic groups in Deir al-Zour in the province for weeks over territory in Abu Kamal town which was previously captured from President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, including oil fields.

Last week an activist from Deir al-Zour told the Associated Press that Nusra Front fighters and their allies brought reinforcements into Abu Kamal city and forced out ISIS gunmen after midnight.

While fighters in Deir al-Zour have succeeded in pushing away ISIS, the tribes expect an imminent assault from the jihadist group especially from the al-Sour and Markada towns where it launched its attacks in early April.

Rejecting conditions

According to the statement, the tribes rejected conditions by ISIS, which stipulated whoever wants to stop fighting should be disarmed.

“Tribes in Deir al-Zour were always disarmed, even before the revolution,” Fahad al-Furati, an activist from the eastern province, told Al Arabiya News Channel on Saturday.

Furati added: “Thousands are deployed in the countryside of Deir al-Zour and ready to fight.”

The tribes have joined list of others who are against ISIS such as the Nusra Front, the Free Syrian Army and the Kurds.

Syrian rebels initially welcomed battle-hardened jihadists to their struggle, but Islamist and non-Islamist groups alike turned on ISIS after it began kidnapping, torturing and killing activists and rival rebels, and imposing its strict version of Islam by force.

Jihadist unity

An interview for al-Qaeda’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, which the SITE monitoring service dated to between February and April, was released.

In the interview Zawahiri called for unity amid widening divisions with a rival jihadist organization rooted in the Syrian civil war.

The interview was released after ISIS accused al-Qaeda of having “deviated from the correct path.”

“They have divided the ranks of the mujahideen [holy warriors] in every place,” ISIS spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani said in a statement posted on jihadist forums.

Syria’s uprising began with peaceful protests in March 2011 but escalated into an insurgency and then a civil war after the regime launched a brutal crackdown on dissent. More than 150,000 people have been killed since the revolt began.

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