Terrorism

Anbar tribes mobilise to block new ISIS arrivals

By Khalid al-Taie

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Anbar tribal fighters take part in a training drill to prepare to battle the 'Islamic State of Iraq and Syria'. [Photo from the Haditha Tribal Mobilisation Brigade Facebook page]

Tribal forces in Anbar province have mobilised to respond to any potential threats following reports that "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) elements are heading towards their areas, tribal sources told Diyaruna.

According to Iraqi tribesmen, ISIS reinforcements have begun to arrive in areas controlled by the group in the far western part of Anbar province.

The incoming elements are the "first batch" of fighters to arrive following the deal struck between Lebanon's Hizbullah and ISIS, they said.

The deal, which sparked angry reactions from Iraqi officials, allowed the evacuation of a large number of ISIS fighters and their families from the outlying areas of Lebanon's Arsal into Syrian territory that borders Iraq.

"We have confirmed information that some of these terrorists have already entered Iraqi territory," said Anbar provincial council member Naeem al-Koud.

"We do not know their exact number," he said.

Al-Koud told Diyaruna he had learned the ISIS elements wanted to enter Husayba, the seat of al-Qaim district, but militants who control the area refused to let them in for unknown reasons.

"Subsequently, they went to neighbouring Iraqi ISIS-controlled areas, namely Rawa, Anah and Akashat, and settled there," he said.

"This information prompted us, as tribesmen, to mobilise our forces and prepare ourselves to respond to any potential terrorist activity that could threaten the security of our province," al-Koud said.

Additionally, he said, al-Jazeera Operations Command forces "are sufficiently prepared to protect our liberated cities".

Al-Koud said he was not in favour of the Hizbullah-ISIS deal.

"Iraq made enormous sacrifices in blood of its sons to eliminate the threat of terrorists and prevent them from fleeing to neighbouring countries and the world," he explained.

"In contrast, the deal provides safe passage for the terrorists and drives them to our country’s borders, instead of fighting and eliminating them," he said.

Constant state of alert

"The tribal forces are in a constant state of alert," said Sheikh Ghazi Nafe al-Jughaifi, a leader of the Jaghayfah tribe fighting ISIS in the city of Haditha.

"The security situation in the province is controlled with an iron fist," he told Diyaruna. "Al-Jazeera Operations forces, the Army’s 7th Division and the tribesmen are all ready to go into action."

"We have fought many battles against the terrorists and have had many campaigns against them in which we were victorious," he said.

Al-Jughaifi said the situation for ISIS elements in the areas under the group's control in the westernmost part of Anbar is "very shaky".

"As a result of the successive defeats they have suffered, most recently in Tal Afar, they no longer have the strength or capability to carry out large offensive operations," he said. "They will not take one inch in any of the liberated cities."

Fallout from Hizbullah’s deal

Hizbullah’s deal "facilitated the evacuation of at least 790 ISIS fighters and their families" from the mountainous areas along the Lebanese border, security analyst Jassem Hanoun told Diyaruna.

The fighters left Lebanon in three batches, he said.

"The first batch included 300 militants with their families traveling in a land convoy that has already reached the Iraqi border with Syria in Anbar," he said.

The other two batches sought to reach the same destination, however coalition aircraft impeded their advance to their destination, and forced them to change course for other ISIS-controlled areas in Syria, he said.

Hizbullah's deal "was a shock in that it posed a direct threat to the security of our country and broke with the customary modus operandi of dealing with terrorist groups such as ISIS", he said.

"Iraqis are surprised that there are some who are dealing with terrorists and making deals with them, while [Iraqis] besiege and fight enemies and shun negotiation," Hanoun said.

"We have real concerns about the outcome of the deal, and now the tribes and security forces must mobilise all their efforts to eliminate the threat," he added.

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