Sunni Tribesmen Say ISIS Exacts Brutal Revenge

The New York Times/October 30, 2014

By Ben Hubbardoct

Islamic State militants have been exacting harsh revenge against an Iraqi Sunni tribe that fought for months to keep the jihadists at bay, capturing and summarily executing scores of its members, tribal leaders and local officials said Thursday.

The death toll among the tribe, the Albu Nimr, remains unclear; one account put it at more than 200 based on mass grave sites, though that could not be independently verified. But the reports mesh with the Islamic State’s pattern of methodical slaughter as it has consolidated its territorial grabs in Syria and Iraq.

The killings also came amid meetings between Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and Sunni tribal leaders to discuss how to enlist more tribes in the fight against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

American and Iraqi officials have said that it is vital to get more Iraqi Sunnis to cooperate with the government, after widespread hostility to the previous Shiite-led administration led many Sunnis to welcome the Islamic State’s advance in Iraq. But plans to formally incorporate Sunni tribes into the fight have been slow to develop, and many tribes that have resisted the Islamic State have faced brutal retribution from the militants.

Members of the Albu Nimr tribe fought for months to keep the Islamic State from entering their area, near the Anbar Province town of Hit, about 90 miles west of Baghdad, according to tribal leaders.

But with no support coming from outside, resupply was difficult, and tribal fighters and police officers were badly outgunned by the Islamic State, which captured many heavy weapons from armories in Syria and Iraq. The jihadists finally conquered Hit this month, and have since expanded their control of nearby areas.

Each time the Islamic State seized an area, residents said, its fighters made a point of hunting down police officers or members of the Iraqi Army who had helped in the fight.

“Anyone who was in the state, in the government or the security forces, is their enemy,” said Jalal al-Gaood, a tribal leader and businessman based in Jordan.

If those targeted by the group had already fled, the jihadists would blow up their homes.

“That sends a message to everyone else that this is what is coming for you,” Mr. Gaood said.

One tribe member, Sabah al-Haditheh, said the Albu Nimr had called for military help and arms support from the government in Baghdad but had received nothing.

“We put the responsibility on the government because they didn’t respond,” he said. “We were fighting ISIS with rifles, and it was fighting us with heavy machine guns.”

A spokesman for Mr. Abadi’s office, Rafid Jaboori, said he could not comment on whether the tribe had asked for support.

But he said that Mr. Abadi had met with Sunni tribal leaders several times in the past 10 days to discuss how they could be integrated into the fight against the Islamic State.

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