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KUWAITIS AMONG 6 TO FACE SECURITY COUNCIL SANCTIONS ‘Sunni tribes rise against jihadists’

RAMADI, Iraq, Aug 15, (Agencies): Members of more than 25 prominent Sunni tribes took up arms against jihadists and their allies west of the Iraqi capital on Friday, a tribal leader and officers said. The uprising in Anbar province, where jihadists from the Islamic State (IS) group and insurgent allies hold major areas, came a day after Nuri al-Maliki, the incumbent premier who is widely reviled by Iraqi Sunni Arabs, abandoned his bid for a third term.

Anbar was the birthplace of a 2006 US-backed uprising against extremist militants that helped bring about a sharp reduction in violence. The current effort could potentially be a major turning point in Iraq’s two-month conflict against an IS-led offensive. “This popular revolution was agreed on with all the tribes that want to fight IS, which spilled our blood,” Sheikh Abduljabbar Abu Risha, one of the leaders of the uprising, told AFP. IS-led insurgents launched a major offensive in June that swept security forces aside and overran large areas of five provinces, including Anbar, where parts of provincial capital Ramadi and all of the city of Fallujah had already been outside government control since January.

Anbar police chief Major General Ahmed Saddak said security forces were backing the uprising, which began at 6:00 am (0300 GMT) on Friday. “The battles are continuing until this moment,” he said, putting the toll at 12 militants killed and adding: “We will not stop until the liberation of Anbar.” The push by tribesmen and security forces began with attacks on multiple areas northwest of Anbar provincial capital Ramadi, Abu Risha and Saddak said. Police Colonel Ahmed Shufir, meanwhile, said that Kataeb Hamza, a group that fought against al-Qaeda-linked militants in past years, has been reformed and is based out of the town of Haditha in Anbar province. Its forces aim to fight against militants who hold areas west of the town, he said. Abu Risha said that the effort had been in the works for weeks and was not linked to Maliki’s announcement on Thursday night that he would step aside.

But the departure of the divisive Shiite premier likely makes Sunni Arab cooperation with Baghdad more palatable. It also clears the way for the formation of a broad-based government that the United States and other power brokers hope would boost the fight against jihadists. Meanwhile, the UN Security Council was set to adopt a resolution Friday aimed at weakening Islamists in Iraq and Syria with measures to choke off funding and the flow of foreign fighters.

The British-drafted document would also place six Islamist leaders — from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and other nations — on the al-Qaeda sanctions list, which provides for a travel ban and assets freeze. The final text was agreed by all 15 members of the council, including Russia, whose backing for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad partly stems from concerns that his downfall could lead to Islamists ruling Damascus.

The measure represents the most wide-ranging response yet by the top United Nations body to the jihadists in Iraq and Syria, who now control large swaths of territory and have been accused of horrific atrocities. The final text, seen by AFP, demands that Islamist State (IS) fighters in Iraq and Syria, rebels from the Al-Nusrah front in Syria and other al-Qaedalinked groups “disarm and disband with immediate effect.” It “calls on all member states to take national measures to suppress the flow of foreign terrorist fighters” to the extremist groups and threatens to slap sanctions on those involved in recruitment.

It also warns governments and entities that trade with the jihadists, who now control oil fields and other potentially cash-generating infrastructure, “could constitute financial support” that may lead to sanctions. The crisis in Iraq has prompted the United States to launch air strikes and air-drop food and water to help tens of thousands of civilians fleeing the jihadist advance in fear for their lives.

France has agreed to send weapons to shore up Kurdish forces fighting the Islamists and Pope Francis has urged the UN to do everything it can to stop attacks against Christian and other religious minorities who have taken flight. Describing the jihadists as a threat to international peace and security, the council has placed the resolution under chapter VII of the UN charter, which means the measures could be enforced by military force or economic sanctions. In the resolution, the council expresses “its gravest concern” that IS and Al-Nusrah front fighters were inspired by “violent extremist ideology” and says their offensive had led to the displacement of millions of people and fomented sectarian tensions.

IS and Al-Nusrah fighters have been accused of targeting Christian and other religious minorities, as well as abducting women and girls and forcing boys into combat. The horrifying photo of a seven-yeardold boy posing with the head of a Syrian soldier was posted last week on the Twitter account of his father, Khaled Sharrouf, an Australian who fled to Syria last year and is now an Islamic State fighter.

In the text, the council accuses the jihadists of a series of atrocities including targeting civilians in Syria, mass executions and extrajudicial killings of Iraqi soldiers, attacks on schools and rape. It warns that such attacks may constitute a crime against humanity.

The council has previously adopted statements condemning the IS offensive but the resolution makes the first attempt at a broader response, two months after IS fighters seized control of the main northern city of Mosul. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has renamed itself the Islamic State and proclaimed a caliphate extending from northern Syria to eastern Iraq. The United Nations is also backing new Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi and his bid to form a broad-based government that officials hope will be able to confront the IS “terrorist army.” Tribal leaders and clerics from Iraq’s Sunni heartland offered their conditional backing on Friday for a new government that hopes to contain sectarian bloodshed and an offensive by Islamic State militants that threatens tear the country apart.

One of the most influential tribal leaders said he was willing to work with Shiite prime minister-designate Haider al-Abadi provided a new administration respected the rights of the Sunni Muslim minority that dominated Iraq under Saddam Hussein. Ali Hatem Suleiman left open a possibility that Sunnis would take up arms against the Islamic State fighters in the same way as he and others joined US and Shiite-led government forces to thwart an al-Qaeda insurgency in Iraq between 2006 and 2009.

Abadi faces the daunting task of pacifying the vast desert province of Anbar. It forms much of the border with Syria, where the Islamist fighters also control swathes of territory. Sunni alienation under outgoing Shiite premier Nuri al-Maliki goaded some in Anbar to join an Islamic State revolt that is now drawing the United States and European allies back into varying degrees of military involvement in Iraq to contain what they see as a jihadist threat that goes well beyond its borders. Iraq has been plunged into its worst violence since the peak of a sectarian civil war in 2006-2007, with Sunni fighters led by the Islamic State overrunning large parts of the west and north, forcing hundreds of thousands to flee for their lives and threatening ethnic Kurds in their autonomous province.

Winning over Sunnis will be vital to any efforts to contain the violence marked by daily kidnappings, executionstyle killings and bombings. Taha Mohammed al-Hamdoon, spokesman for the tribal and clerical leaders, told Reuters that Sunni representatives in Anbar and other provinces had drawn up a list of demands.

This would be delivered through Sunni politicians to Abadi, a member of the same Shiite Islamist party but with a less confrontational reputation than Maliki, who announced on Thursday he would stand down. Hamdoon called for the government and Shiite militia forces to suspend hostilities in Anbar to allow space for talks. “It is not possible for any negotiations to be held under barrel bombs and indiscriminate bombing,” Hamdoon said in a telephone interview with Reuters. “Let the bombing stop and withdraw and curtail the (Shiite) militias until there is a solution for the wise men in these areas.”

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