Sunni sheikhs pledge allegiance to ISIL in Iraq’s Anbar

Islamic State militants, killing a group of captured Ethiopian Christians in Libya.

Islamic State militants, killing a group of captured Ethiopian Christians in Libya.

A NUMBER of Sunni tribal sheikhs and tribes in Iraq’s Anbar province have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group.

The sheikhs and tribal leaders made the pledge in a statement read out by influential Sheikh Ahmed Dara al-Jumaili, after meeting in Fallujah on Wednesday.

Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan, reporting from Baghdad, said it was not yet clear if the tribes had been forced to pledge allegiance by ISIL fighters, who control Fallujah and most of Anbar province.

“If this is a willing move then that is very worrying for the Iraqi government,” Khan said.

“The statement they issued was very strong – it condemned the government.
“It said the only way that peace would come to Anbar province is if the tribes joined ISIL.”

Khan said the inclusion of the al-Jumaili tribe in the pledge was of particular concern for Iraqi authorities, given the tribe’s influence in Anbar province.

“The al-Jumailis command a number of fighters and they have a large amount of influence over other tribes [in Anbar],” he said.

The pledge comes after a number of Sunni leaders in Anbar province publicly criticised the involvement of Shia militias in the fight to retake areas of the province from ISIL, including the provincial capital Ramadi that fell last month. 

While a number of Sunni tribes have joined with government forces and Shia militias, Khan reported that a number of tribal leaders have asked for government support to fight the armed group.

“They said ‘if you arm us, if you allow us to fight as Sunnis, we will be able to get rid of ISIL quite quickly’,” he said.

“The fact that a number of these tribes have come together … and pledged allegiance to ISIL shows the level of anger the Sunni tribes feel towards the government in Baghdad.”

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