Iraq News

Anbar officials receive word of ISIL defections

By Hassan al-Obaidi in Anbar

Two 'Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant' elements confessed to their role in a November 2016 attack targeting a wedding in Ameriyat al-Fallujah. [Photo courtesy of Ameriyat al-Sumood Facebook page]

Two 'Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant' elements confessed to their role in a November 2016 attack targeting a wedding in Ameriyat al-Fallujah. [Photo courtesy of Ameriyat al-Sumood Facebook page]

Anbar province officials say they have received word that dozens of "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) elements are trying to leave the group and surrender to the security forces.

Ramadi and Fallujah residents have provided information about relatives affiliated with ISIL who now want to leave the group and turn themselves in, said Col. Mohammed al-Dulaimi of the Anbar Operations Command.

"Some of them have not yet been involved in murder and terrorist acts that the group perpetrates, and these individuals should immediately be arrested and receive reduced sentencing," he told Diyaruna.

"A significant number" of local ISIL fighters in the Anbar province border towns of al-Qaim , Hassibah, Anah and Rawa now know the true nature of ISIL and seek to leave the group, Anbar governor Suhaib al-Rawi told Diyaruna.

The state will ensure fair trials for those who turn themselves in to the police or army, he said.

"Lots of people were deceived by ISIL in the beginning, and now they know the truth," al-Rawi said. "But the group kills anyone who tries to leave."

Haditha tribal moblisation commander Nazim al-Jughaifi said the tribes have received indirect word that some residents who have been involved with ISIL in western Anbar are now regretful and want to escape.

"This is a victory for us as the group is imploding," he told Diyaruna.

'The courts will have the final say'

Up to 80 Iraqi ISIL fighters are attempting to flee ISIL-held territory with their families, he said, explaining that if they flee on their own, the group "will no doubt kill their families in revenge".

If they surrender, he said, "they will be handed over to the courts and will be fairly treated, and the courts will have the final say".

"However, if they stay, this will mean that they will either perish or they will be arrested, and they would then lose the commutation of sentencing that is afforded to those who turn themselves in voluntarily," he said.

The federal government will treat Iraqi members of ISIL who turn themselves in differently than those who opt to remain at large, Anbar provincial council member Hamid al-Dulaimi told Diyaruna.

"Seven of those who surrendered in Ramadi last year received a fair trial and are currently serving their prison sentences," he said.

Eventually they will be able to return to their communities and families and will be given a second chance to return to the right path, he added.

Helping would-be defectors escape

A Ramadi resident, who asked to be referred to by his initials M.J. out of concern for his safety, arrived at a police station in the city's al-Qattana neighbourhood to ask the authorities to rescue his youngest son from al-Qaim.

His son was tricked into getting involved with ISIL, he told Diyaruna over the telephone, saying his son had been coerced into serving as a member of its al-Hisbah ("religious police") but had not fought for the group.

"He called me a few days ago and told me that he misses us and misses living in peace and with compassion," his father said. "Over there, the only language is that of blood and death."

"He told me, 'Father, these people are psychopaths and not normal humans and I regret and hate myself every day'," M.J. said, adding that his son is seeking a way to escape from the group.

M.J. said his son told him that an ISIL fighter had tried to escape from al-Qaim a month ago but was captured and killed by his comrades, with whom he had shared meals and slept under the same roof.

This incident reveals the group's true nature, M.J. said, as they accused him of a made-up offence rather than admit they had killed him because he tried to escape.

Anbar's tribes have said they will disown their sons who joined the group.

Atonement cleanses the shame of belonging to ISIL, Sheikh Latif al-Alwani of Albu Alwan tribe told Diyaruna, but "those that choose to stay with ISIL will have no future with their tribe or family".

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