Iraq News
Security

Diyala tribes help Iraqi forces rout ISIS remnants

By Khalid al-Taie

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Public figures and tribal leaders from Diyala province gather to demonstrate their support for the security forces in this photo, posted online on January 6th, Iraqi Armed Forces Day. [Photo courtesy of Diyala Police Command]

More than 100 tribal leaders in Diyala's al-Nada basin have announced their support for a military campaign to rout "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) remnants from their hiding places in the province.

Iraqi forces have been engaged in a campaign to purge the area of remaining pockets of ISIS elements, who have been hiding in the province's orchards.

"Al-Nada tribe is prepared to provide the necessary assistance to the police and army to rout ISIS elements," Sheikh Haithem al-Hom told Diyaruna.

"We would like to declare a grand uprising against terrorist pockets as we join the security forces to prevent our area from becoming a safe haven for terrorists," he said.

"Our area is a swath of 25 square kilometres that extends all the way to eastern Diyala," he said, noting that it includes al-Saadiya, Jaloula and Hamreen.

The size of this area, along with its dense vegetation and rugged terrain, has made it possible for retreating ISIS elements "to stay hidden from the watchful eye of the security forces and launch their desperate attacks", he said.

ISIS elements have a history of using al-Nada basin as a hiding place.

Since Iraqi forces ousted ISIS from Diyala in January 2015, they have occasionally mounted offensives against elements who flee to the area.

These operations have curbed the group's activities but have not succeeded in eliminating them.

Attack on tribal leader's home

On January 6th, militants attacked al-Hom's home.

"They attacked my house with a car bomb and three suicide bombers wearing suicide belts," he said.

The militants were killed, al-Hom said, but the car bomb killed his wife and wounded her niece and his daughter.

Al-Hom's house and personal belongings were damaged in the attack.

The attack occurred after al-Hom issued a statement warning ISIS cells of a "war till the death", in which he stated he would banish from his tribe any member who is found to be providing the militants with support.

"This is not the first attack of its kind that has targeted my clan, which is known for its opposition to terrorists," al-Hom said.

Two years ago, the group launched a violent attack in al-Nada basin, killing 15 men and wounding 37 others, many of whom were related to al-Hom, he said.

"We are steadfast and will not relent in spite of attacks against us by terrorists as we double down and pledge to excise them from our lands," he said.

Strong support for Iraqi forces

Diyala police have a strong partnership with local tribes and residents, Diyala province police spokesman Col. Ghalib al-Attiyah told Diyaruna.

"We stand by the public in their effort to help us hunt down terrorists and wipe them out wherever they might be in our province," he said. "We have a joint responsibility and share a common goal."

Diyala police have been working with the Tigris Forces on a continuous basis to find and destroy ISIS hideouts in al-Nada basin, al-Attiya said.

Several ISIS sleeper cells have been apprehended with help from the local population, he said.

On January 2nd, the Diyala police command and Tigris Forces launched a campaign to hunt down militants in the basin area, with air cover from the army.

The operation covered the villages of Miyah and Karim al-Heymis, among others.

"Targeting Sheikh al-Hom was a result of his heroic and patriotic calls to eliminate terrorism," Ninawa provincial council security committee head Sadiq al-Husseini told Diyaruna.

"Several terrorist targets in al-Nada basin and other nearby areas have been attacked, including Mutaibija, the Hamreen basin and northern al-Muqdadiyah," he said.

Last week, 14 ISIS leaders in these areas were killed during the ongoing military operations to oust them, al-Husseini said.

"Terrorists are not safe, and we will get them," he said.

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