Iraq News

Fallujah offensive unites Iraqis against ISIL

By Alaa Hussein in Baghdad

Iraqi forces have mounted an offensive to liberate Fallujah from the 'Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant'. [Photo courtesy of the Iraqi Ministry of Defence]

Iraqi forces have mounted an offensive to liberate Fallujah from the 'Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant'. [Photo courtesy of the Iraqi Ministry of Defence]

The battle to liberate Fallujah has united Iraqis of all religious and ethnic groups against a common enemy -- the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) --defying the group's attempts to sow sectarian strife, Iraqi clerics tell Mawtani.

Forces from the Iraqi army, federal police and popular mobilisation, including fighters from a number of Iraqi tribes, launched the offensive on May 22nd.

The joint push to free Fallujah, a Sunni centre known as the "city of mosques", shows there is "no truth to the claims that the war is a war of one [religious] component against another", said Dar al-Iftaa in Iraq spokesman Amer al-Bayati.

"Iraq's original Sunnis" are fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with their brethren of other sects, he told Mawtani, adding that "Iraq's Sunnis are one hand with the rest of the components against the enemy".

ISIL's practice of declaring those who do not share its extremist ideology as "infidels" poses a threat to the Islamic nation (Ummah), he said, stressing that the group's ideology is in no way sanctioned by Iraq's Sunnis.

"We stand with everyone to liberate every inch occupied from the land of Iraq by those with deviant ideology," al-Bayati said.

Speaking on behalf of the religious authorities in the Shia city of Najaf, Sheikh Abdul Mahdi al-Karbalai urged Iraqi fighters to save the people trapped in Fallujah from ISIL and its evil and help them escape with their lives.

'A battle of all Iraqis'

"The battle to liberate Fallujah is a battle of all Iraqis of all sects, because ISIL is not only an enemy of the Shia but is the enemy of all who oppose its misguided ideology, regardless of affiliation," said Sheikh Sami al-Masoudi of Iraq's Shia Endowment.

The group slaughtered about 700 members of the Sunni tribe of Albu Nimr in 2014, he told Mawtani, merely because they opposed its ideology.

"In the battlefield today, you find thousands of fighters who belong to different sects and components that are only united by their belonging to the homeland," he said.

There are battalions of fighters from Sunni tribes in Anbar and Salaheddine supporting the popular mobilisation forces, he said, as well as fighters from other religious groups and areas, including central and southern Iraq.

Al-Masoudi said he personally took part in the evacuation of more than 1,500 civilians from al-Karma alongside fighters from the popular mobilisation forces, providing residents with food and drink until they were completely evacuated.

"The battle of Fallujah is the battle of all Iraq against terrorism and not that of one sect against another as the terrorist organisation likes to portray it," he said.

A Christian militia called the Babylon Brigades also is taking part in the battle to liberate Fallujah from ISIL under the umbrella of the popular mobilisation forces, group leader Rayan al-Kaldani told Mawtani.

The militia's battalions are participating in the battle with a regiment of fighters, he said, and are subject, along with all other groups, to the orders of Iraqi Prime Minister and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces Haider al-Abadi.

Iraqi forces are eager to protect the lives of civilians in Fallujah, he said, noting that the element of surprise was sacrificed in order to allow residents to evacuate the city before the start of military operations.

"Our fight is a battle of national liberation and to free human beings, and we will not listen to the voices that are trying to undermine the achieved victories," he said.

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