Sunni tribesmen take part in military training, as they prepare to fight against Islamic State militants, on the outskirts of Ramadi, west of Baghdad, Nov. 16, 2014. Reuters photo.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region - Sunni tribes in Iraq’s embattled Anbar province have formed their first paramilitary force, a militia of mostly volunteer fighters whose aim is to drive out the Islamic State (ISIS) from their areas.
The volunteer army has been formed without direct support from Iraq’s predominantly Shiite government, which the tribes accuse of sidelining Sunni calls for armament.
“These are local tribal forces formed to clear the area of ISIS militants,” said a spokesman for the militia.
”We ask the government to support these forces, financially in particular. We have been volunteers for the past six months and many more are on their way to join us,” he added.
The group, which had been operating away from the public eye in the fighting in Anbar that has raged since much of last year, appeared on television for the first time in a Rudaw report.
“This is a special group supported by the tribes,” said an official coordinating the militia. ”We have had casualties from the battles against ISIS. The Iraqi government has not supported us in any way in the fight so far. Former Iraqi Army officers have been instructing the group,” he explained.
The Sunni force is similar to the Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi militia and is being trained at a military camp, where fighters say they are ready to defend their areas against ISIS or any other attacker.
“We ask the government to support the group, which is mainly made of volunteers,” an official from the militia said, as he called on more volunteers to join.
"The training sessions are focused on how to use heavy machine guns and even how to defuse explosives. We are ready to defend our lands to the very last man,” he vowed.
Anbar has been a war zone since much of last year as ISIS intensified efforts to capture the remaining areas in what is Iraq’s largest province.