Iraq News

ISIL abandons sectarian card as Mosul battle intensifies

By Alaa Hussain in Baghdad


An Iraqi solider flashes the victory sign from an armoured vehicle in Umm Mahahir, south of Mosul, on October 28th after the village was recaptured from the 'Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant'. [Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP]

As Iraqi forces bear down on Mosul, the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) appears to have abandoned all attempts to use sectarian divisions as a rallying cry, officials told Diyaruna.

The group has previously sought to portray itself as "defender of the Sunnis", they said, and has accused Iraqi forces of waging a war along sectarian lines.

But this claim has long since been refuted, with Iraqis of all religious and ethnic backgrounds, including Sunnis, participating in the Mosul battle, as popular resistance to the group gains traction within the city.

"We do not say this is Sunni, Shia, Kurdish, Christian or Yazidi, but we say that we are all Iraqis and defend the Iraqi house for co-existence inside it," said Dar al-Ifta in Iraq spokesman Amer al-Bayati.

"ISIL's allegations of defending Sunnis are void because they are the masters of murder and deviation, in addition to ideological and methodological extremism," he said.

"Who killed Sunni youth in Mosul except for ISIL elements?" he asked, describing the group's fighters as "the Kharijites of the era".

In contrast, he added, " the hands that fight terrorism today are Iraqi hands representing all components of the Iraqi spectrum ".

Sunnis against ISIL

Fighters from the Sunni tribes of Ninawa province, the Sabawi, Jubur and Laheeb, are standing hand in hand with the Iraqi forces to liberate Mosul, said tribal mobilisation leader Sheikh Miqdad al-Sabawi.

Ninawa's tribal mobilisation "did not start the battle with ISIL today, it was rather formed upon the fall of Mosul city in June 2014", he told Diyaruna.

Tribal fighters have been battling the group all this time, he said, noting that tribal fighters in the province know the terrain well, and are able to identify those who collaborated with ISIL.

"The federal government in Baghdad supported the tribal mobilisation forces, equipped them with weapons and provided monthly salaries to their members," al-Sabawi said.

Backed by Iraqi forces, he said, fighters from the Sabawi tribe managed to liberate 14 villages from ISIL, to the joy of the local population, detaining a number of ISIL elements and handing them over to the security services.

Christians join the fight

The Ninawa Plain Protection Units, comprised largely of Assyrian Christians, are fighting alongside the Iraqi forces and the Peshmerga to liberate the historical areas of the Chaldeans, Syriacs and Assyrians, said spokesman Romeo Hakkari.

National duty calls for these forces to take part in the liberation of towns overrun by ISIL, he told Diyaruna.

The tragedy, injustice and suffering that befell Christians and Yazidis in Mosul necessitate a larger role for these populations in the national security apparatus in the future to protect the residents of those areas, he said.

" Christians are determined to return to their towns and villages after the liberation is complete," Hakkari said.

Families displaced to the Kurdish region will be able to return to their homes as soon as they have been cleared of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), he added.

Iraqi MP Ali Fayyad said the participation of all social and ethnic components in the fight against ISIL in Mosul will guarantee the country's unity and cohesion.

"These components are moving under a strong motivation to liberate their towns and villages and to take revenge against ISIL," he told Diyaruna, and are operating in co-ordination with the Iraqi army, federal forces and the Peshmerga.

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