Clashes in jihadist-held Iraq city halt after residents seized

Clashes in jihadist-held Iraq city halt after residents seized

BAGHDAD - Agence France-Presse
Clashes in jihadist-held Iraq city halt after residents seized

Displaced Iraqis, who fled regions controlled by ISIL near Fallujah, carry their belongings on February 9, 2016 as they arrive in the Jwaibah area, on the eastern outskirts of Ramadi, after pro-government troops retook it from jihadists. AFP Photo

Clashes between Iraqi tribesmen and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Fallujah have halted after the jihadists detained dozens of residents of the city west of Baghdad, officials said Feb. 21.

The fighting between the Sunni Arab tribesmen and ISIL in Fallujah, one of two cities it still holds in Iraq, challenges the jihadists’ ability to maintain control.

But officials said tribesmen were running short of supplies on Feb. 20, and ISIL, which is known for its extreme violence, has already executed a large number of opponents elsewhere in Anbar province.

Tribesmen in three areas of Fallujah “withdrew from the clashes [with ISIL], fearing for the fate of the detainees,” an army lieutenant colonel told AFP on condition of anonymity.

“The clashes stopped because of the imbalance of power and fear that the detainees would be executed,” said Issa Sayir who was appointed by the Anbar governor to administer the Fallujah area.

Sayir said ISIL was likely to execute Fallujah residents for their alleged “cooperation with the security forces.”

Raja Barakat, a member of the provincial council in Anbar, where Fallujah is located, said: “We now fear that the [ISIL] organization will carry out a massacre in the city.” 

Sayir estimated the number of detainees at around 60, while the lieutenant colonel said the figure was over 110 and a tribal leader said more than 100.

Meanwhile, a senior Iraqi official said that they deployed reinforcements to a military base in Anbar on Feb. 22 for an impending operation against ISIL in the western province.

ISIL overran large parts of Anbar province in 2014, but Iraqi forces recaptured provincial capital Ramadi from the jihadists and are now setting their sights on areas farther up the Euphrates river valley.

“Major military reinforcements... arrived today to the Ain al-Asad base,” army Major General Ali Ibrahim Daboun said.

The forces from the counter-terrorism service and police will take part in an operation in the coming days to retake the town of Heet and the nearby Kubaisa area, Daboun said.

The Al-Asad base is located northwest of those areas, while Ramadi, where government forces are also deployed, lies to its southeast.