The "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) has lost its popular support base in Iraq, after its control of territory exposed the group's false propaganda and wreaked havoc on residents' lives, local officials told Diyaruna.
This shift is evident in Iraq's westernmost Anbar province, where residents have repeatedly expressed their rejection of ISIS attempts to regain a foothold in their areas.
On September 27th, residents took part in thwarting a large-scale attack by ISIS elements who tried to seize three areas around the provincial capital Ramadi.
All of the attackers were killed in the operation, AFP reported, while at least two security personnel were killed and 18 civilians wounded.
The incident revealed the depth of co-operation between local residents and security forces amid popular resentment of ISIS, said Anbar provincial council member Athal al-Fahdawi.
"We were concerned by the presence of some sympathisers or supporters of ISIS, especially on the outskirts of cities and inside those that were recently liberated from the group," he told Diyaruna.
But residents clashed with ISIS even before the security forces arrived on the scene, offering "a vivid example of the group's loss of its most prominent source of strength -- its popular support base", he said.
ISIS invaded Anbar three years ago under the pretext of protecting the people and defending their rights, he said.
There are many, especially among the youth, who were deceived by these false slogans and were fooled by the terrorists' words and their false promises, he said.
ISIS's rule exposed its truth
But when ISIS controlled their areas, residents realised that all of the group's claims "were pure lies and misinformation aimed at acquiring their resources", al-Fahdawi said.
"Residents turned into victims of the group's most heinous crimes," he said.
"ISIS elements confiscated their rights, freedoms and property, and gave them a taste of all kinds of persecution and ill-treatment."
"Today these citizens have learned the lesson well and do not want to repeat the tragedy," al-Fahdawi said, noting that they are currently sharing the responsibility of protecting their areas in co-operation with security forces.
There are several night guard posts manned by locals who complement the work of security forces, he said.
"Residents do not hesitate to inform the forces of any suspicious movements, which reflects the high level of mutual trust between them and the joint co-ordination in foiling terrorist schemes," he added.
Residents' perception of ISIS has changed completely from what it was in the past, said Sheikh Abdullah al-Jughaifi, a tribal leader in Haditha city and the head of Ahrar al-Furat.
ISIS, before its invasion of Anbar, had succeeded in penetrating and gaining the loyalty of many, he told Diyaruna, noting that the political climate and the government's neglect of popular demands at the time facilitated that infiltration.
After the fall of several cities in the group's hands, he said, locals realised that they were fooled by ISIS's propaganda "and that the group has brought to their cities nothing but oppression and destruction".
The people "became aware that these terrorists were no other than lowly individuals with no religion and no social boundaries or human values", he added.
'Making a new history for Anbar'
Al-Jughaifi called on residents to take on a greater role in protecting their areas.
The people of Anbar ... are making a new history for their province," he said.
Anbar residents were the first to fight all terror groups, Sulaiman al-Kubaisi, a journalist from Anbar, told Diyaruna.
"Our province was one of the first provinces that stood up against al-Qaeda and extremist ideology," he said, adding that the tribal Sahwa movement played a key role in fighting and expelling terror groups from Anbar.
Al-Kubaisi said that ISIS deceived some of Anbar's youth to join its ranks, but residents ultimately united around Iraqi security forces and together they defeated the group.
"The people and security forces are now one hand. The terrorists have no support, their ideas are not accepted and there is no safe place for them in Anbar," he said.