Sunni tribal fighters deployed in reconquered Ramadi areas

AFP , Tuesday 29 Dec 2015

Hundreds of fighters from local Sunni tribes were deployed Tuesday in some areas of the Iraqi city of Ramadi, newly reconquered from the Islamic State group, security officials said.

"Five hundred members of the tribes from the Hashed arrived in northern Ramadi to participate in operations there and hold the liberated areas," said Major General Ismail Mahalawi, who heads Anbar operations command.

The Hashed al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation) is an umbrella group of mostly Tehran-backed Shiite militias that have played a key role in retaking land from IS.

However, Sunni fighters from Anbar tribes opposed to the jihadists also officially belong to the group, which is nominally under Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi's command.

"Five units of tribal forces arrived today and hold the areas of Jaraishi, Zawiyah and Albu Faraj north of Ramadi," said their leader, Tareq Yusef al-Asal.

They had been trained on Habbaniyah base and armed by the defence ministry, he added.

The premier visited the Anbar capital Tuesday, a day after the elite counter-terrorism service raised the Iraqi flag above the city's large government complex.

The provincial headquarters had been the epicentre of the fighting since Iraqi forces punched through IS defences a week ago to cap a months-long operation to retake Ramadi.

Abadi congratulated the security forces, who were still sweeping streets and buildings for roadside bombs, booby traps and holed up jihadists.

The most powerful groups in the Hashed al-Shaabi played only a peripheral role in the Ramadi battle, as Abadi and the US-led coalition wanted federal forces to regain confidence by spearheading the operation.

The loss of Ramadi to IS in May was a huge blow to Baghdad's war on the jihadists, and shed further light on the shortcomings of security forces that had nearly collapsed when IS swept through the country in 2014.

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