A new tribal force formed in Haditha is working to defend the Anbar province city from "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) infiltration and attack and to liberate western parts of the province still under the group's control.
Al-Soumoud (resistance) military unit, which officially launched December 25th, comprises 120 tribal fighters and reports to the Haditha tribal forces, said unit commander Maj. Bahjat Mohammed Ahmed al-Jughaifi.
Members of the new force, made up of elite tribal fighters qualified to fight under various conditions, recently completed two months of intensive military training, he told Diyaruna.
"Our fighters received harsh physical training and trained on the use of light weapons, rocket launchers [and] machine guns," he said.
They also took part in target practice and sniper training and learned how to stage ambushes and storm buildings, al-Jughaifi said.
"They are ready to defend and fortify Haditha city against terrorist attacks and to participate in the operations to liberate Anbar's western regions of Anah, Rawa and al-Qaim, ISIL's last strongholds in the province," he added.
'Best support for security forces'
Tribal forces have proved to be the best support for the security forces, al-Jughaifi said, noting that over the past two years, these forces have thwarted all of ISIL's attempts to occupy Haditha.
The city was under ISIL siege for more than two years but had repeatedly blocked ISIL's attempts to gain control of it, even though the group was in control of most of the neighbouring cities, he said.
"Tribal fighters, along with their brothers in the security forces, continue to block the enemy's attacks and defeat it," al-Jughaifi said.
"Every time the enemy attacks the bulwark formed by our forces around the city, taking advantage of the element of surprise and weather conditions, it receives a violent response from us and flees defeated, dragging the tail of disappointment between its legs," he said.
Al-Soumoud fighters are among 1,200 tribal fighters who have mobilised to protect Haditha, said Haditha tribal forces intelligence officer Lt. Col. Nazim al-Jughaifi.
"The new force is well trained by skilled officers from the Jazeera Forces Operations Command to fulfill special and specific duties in fighting ISIL elements and liberating occupied cities," he told Diyaruna.
"Security forces have provided al-Soumoud fighters with modern weapons and anti-tank systems to enhance their fighting capabilities and assign quality operations to them," he said.
ISIL sustains heavy losses
Security forces and tribal fighters are protecting Haditha from all sides, within an 80-kilometre radius, Nazim al-Jughaifi said, adding that "the terrorists cannot threaten the city as their attacks are foiled before they are even launched".
"Last week, the group tried to attack Haditha with more than one major operation, but they were all foiled at the hands of our brave men and with the help of the army's air force and the international coalition," he said.
"The enemy's losses in those battles were very heavy," he said, noting that more than 50 vehicles carrying machine guns, cars and booby-trapped bulldozers were destroyed.
ISIL also lost about 250 of its fighters during these operations, he said.
"Haditha did not fall into the hands of terrorism and will continue to resist ISIL," he said. "We as tribal members are completely prepared today for the liberation of the last remaining areas controlled by ISIL in Anbar."
Experienced tribal fighters
Al-Soumoud includes fighters from the tribes of al-Jaghaifa, Albu Nimr and others, according to Khaled Salman, head of Haditha's municipal council.
Before joining the new force, "these fighters had participated as volunteer fighters in several battles against ISIL elements in which they acquired expertise and high combat skills", he told Diyaruna.
Their combat skills have increased after undergoing "organised and sophisticated trainings", he said, adding that they are now "fully ready to carry out the riskiest operations against the enemy".
"The security situation in Haditha is very good thanks to the tight cordon by the security forces and tribes around the city," Salman said.
"Attacks by ISIL, especially from the areas of Barwana, Khasfeh and Haqlaniyeh are all failing miserably," he said, noting that Iraqi forces are inflicting the heaviest losses on the group, and seizing its weapons and vehicles.