Thousands of al-Hawijah tribal fighters have declared their support for Iraqi security forces in clamping down on "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) remnants in their areas, an Iraqi official said Monday (May 11th).
The tribes of al-Hawijah in western Kirkuk province -- including Albu Jabr, al-Sakr, Albu Jahsh and al-Sabaawiyin -- have said they will co-ordinate with security forces to root out ISIS, Naji Ibrahim al-Hawwas, head of the al-Hawijah local council, told Diyaruna.
These clans "have placed 10,000 of their fighters on alert to provide assistance to the military units in any search campaign targeting terrorist elements", he said.
On Friday, tribal fighters together with federal police forces, the army's 14th Division and forces from the popular mobilisation's 56th Brigade, backed by Iraqi aircraft, took part in a first joint search operation, he said.
"During the operation, the areas of responsibility were divided into several sectors, with each sector inspected jointly by the security units and the tribesmen living there," al-Hawwas said.
Sleeper cells targeted
The joint forces searched large swathes of areas extending from north of al-Zab river down to where al-Zab meets the Tigris river -- roughly 30 kilometres that include hills and plains close to al-Hawijah centre and al-Abbasi sub-district.
While the operation "did not lead to the discovery of any terrorist hideouts", it helped secure and impose control over the targeted areas and deflect the terrorist threats, al-Hawwas said.
It is a prelude to larger operations, he added.
"Following ISIS's attempts to reactivate its sleeper cells and resume its activities, the tribes today seek to renew their patriotic stances and stand as one with the security forces against the return of the terrorists," he said.
ISIS elements still present in mountainous areas near al-Hawijah carry out sporadic attacks and move about through secret passages in groups of no more than four elements for fear of being targeted, he said.
These remnants have recently attacked security posts in the areas of al-Multaqa, al-Riyadh and the areas extending to Makhmour mountains, he said.
"We will not allow these cowardly terrorists free rein and will work with our forces to drive them out and deliver tough punishment," he said.