Tribal leaders in Iraq’s beleaguered Anbar Province have declared that the Islamic State (IS) militant group is a “common enemy,” Iraqi news sources have reported.
Tribesmen from Fallujah, Ramadi, and the Upper Euphrates region gathered on January 13 for a conference in the provincial capital Ramadi, which has been under heavy assault by Islamic State gunmen for months.
Also attending the conference -- titled “Islamic State has no place among us” -- were government and military officials.
The first day of the conference focused on uniting the efforts of Anbar tribes against the Islamic State group, “so that they can crush IS and retake cities under its control,” Anbar tribal council vice chairman Sheikh Mohammad al-Fahdawi told Iraq’s Al-Shorfa news.
Al-Fahdawi said that on the second day of the conference, on January 14, the Islamic State group would be declared “the common enemy of all tribes.”
The message of unity against Islamic State militants came ahead of comments by Anbar council member Jassim al-Halbusi, who said on January 14 that the local Anbar government and tribes would not prevent any Iraqi forces, regardless of their regional or sectarian origins, from entering Anbar to combat the Islamic State group.
Al-Halbusi said that the “terrorism of the Islamic State group” had boosted the unity of the tribes of Iraq’s Anbar, Diyala and Salahuddin provinces and that Islamic State militants had “united all the Iraqi people to confront this terrorist threat.”
The Anbar council member said that the Iraqi security forces, tribal fighters and the Popular Mobilization militia (Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi) would defeat the Islamic State group and allow those Iraqis who have been displaced to return home.
The pledges of unity in the face of the Islamic State threat also came amid ongoing fierce clashes throughout Anbar Province.
Al-Shafaaq news cited a source in the Fallujah Teaching Hospital on January 14 as saying that 22 people had been killed or wounded in shelling on residential neighborhoods in Fallujah city.
Fallujah, which is 70 kilometers west of Baghdad, fell to Islamic State militants in January, 2014 when Iraqi government forces lost control of the city.
According to Al-Shafaaq, Islamic State militants are positioned mainly in civilian areas in the city “for purposes of camouflage,” a fact that has led to a high civilian casualty count as Iraqi Army forces regularly shell parts of the city to target IS militants.
An RFE/RL correspondent in Iraq reported on January 13 that indiscriminate exchanges of mortar fire between IS gunmen in Fallujah and Iraqi security forces outside the city had led to an increased casualty count. The correspondent cited a source in the Fallujah General Hospital as saying that 13 residents, including three women and three children, had been killed and at least 17 wounded as a result of the clashes.
Fighting also continued in the provincial capital, Ramadi, with intensified clashes in the southern and western areas of the town. Iraqi security sources told an RFE/RL Iraqi Service correspondent that three Islamic State snipers had been killed in the Hawz neighborhood.
-- Joanna Paraszczuk