Fleeing ISIL finds itself targeted by own weapons in Anbar

By Alaa Hussain in Baghdad


Iraqi forces inspect a cache of weapons left behind by 'Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant' fighters in Fallujah. [Photo courtesy of the Joint Operations Command]

As the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) loses ground and flees battlefields in Iraq's Anbar province, in many cases its fighters are leaving their weapons and equipment behind, military and provincial officials told Diyaruna.

Some of these abandoned weapons have been claimed by tribal mobilisation fighters, who are now using them to drive the group away from their areas, in a move officials say demonstrates a clear shift in the balance of power.

As they face defeat in Iraq's westernmost province , ISIL fighters "are fleeing and leaving behind various kinds of weapons and ammunition", al-Baghdadi district tribal mobilisation commander Sheikh Qatari al-Samarmad told Diyaruna.

"Many tribal mobilisation factions in Anbar are today arming their fighters with ISIL weapons with the knowledge and approval of government security forces in the province," he said.

During the battle to liberate al-Baghdadi Island , al-Samarmad said, his force captured many small pick-up trucks ISIL had used to transport its fighters, along with various types of machine guns and rifles.

One unit captured an armoured vehicle that ISIL fighters had apparently brought across the border from Syria to use in the fighting in Iraq, he added.

These weapons have been added to the tribal mobilisation's arsenal with the government's approval, he said, adding that the government has been doing its part to equip the tribesmen with ammunition and fuel.

An organised, unified force

The tribal mobilisation, which is fighting ISIL alongside the Iraqi forces, is "an organised force with a unified command", said Anbar tribal mobilisation deputy commander Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-Bilawi.

Around 10,000 fighters are officially enlisted in the Anbar mobilisation and receive salaries from the government, he told Diyaruna, in addition to many other volunteers who are still awaiting registration.

The government has been arming these forces with light and medium weapons and has been providing them with other equipment, including light vehicles to transport fighters to the various fronts, he said.

Tribal mobilisation forces also receive weapons from the international coalition that is battling ISIL in Iraq and Syria, with the Iraqi government's knowledge and consent, he said, in addition to military backing during the fighting.

According to the Anbar provincial council, there is no question that these weapons will remain under the control of the state and at its service.

Tribal mobilisation fighters "are volunteers devoting themselves to defending their province and their country, and they will only use the weapons responsibly", council member Taha Abdul-Ghani told Diyaruna.

Addressing concerns that ISIL may seek to recapture its seized weapons, he said that "ISIL will never again have an entity arming itself and fighting in the province".

He called for an increase in the number of tribal mobilisation fighters in the province to ensure they are able to hold the liberated territory, which is growing in size each day with the progress being made by the Iraqi forces.

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