Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Sunni tribes seek unity

Sunni tribes seek unity
By Maher Al-Jasem in Ramadi, Iraq

Following the assassination of a tribal chief who opposed al-Qaeda in Iraq, Sunni tribes in the country are now pushing for the creation of a national tribal organisation as a means to end the violence in Iraq.

Tribal chiefs from the west, south and north of Iraq will first set up a system of cohesive nationwide salvation councils to support local police forces in their efforts to combat crime and terrorism.

The councils are expected to adopt a model first applied in al-Anbar in which local tribes and former Baathists worked to restore order and security following the US attacks on Falluja in 2004.

Abu Omar al-Mahalawi, a senior figure in the Abu Mahal tribe, told Al Jazeera that the tribes of al-Anbar are trying to reach out to the southern Shia Arab counterparts.

He said: "Shia tribes are being attacked by al-Qaeda just like we are, so now is the time for all of us Shia and Sunni to unite; after all we all belong to one tribal community in Iraq."

Rather than rely on Iraqi army and police units from other provinces or the use of US forces, the tribes urged local militia to create a new police force, patrol the streets, establish detention facilities and work on a provincial court system.

The council received assurances from the Iraqi government that it would apply an autonomous approach to maintaining security.

The al-Anbar councils also empowered the Sunni tribal militias to remove foreign fighters from the province, a key step, they believed, to maintaining security.


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