Skip to main content

Tribal fighters clash with Iraqi army amid rising tensions

By Mohammed Tawfeeq, CNN
May 16, 2013 -- Updated 1533 GMT (2333 HKT)
Iraqi anti-government gunmen from Sunni tribes in Anbar province march during a protest in Ramadi on April 26, 2013.
Iraqi anti-government gunmen from Sunni tribes in Anbar province march during a protest in Ramadi on April 26, 2013.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: A curfew will be imposed in Anbar province overnight, state-run Iraqiya TV reports
  • Iraqi security forces raided a farm in Ramadi belonging to a Sunni tribal leader, he says
  • Dozens of Anbar tribal fighters are surrounding Iraqi army HQ in Ramadi, police officials say
  • Tensions between Iraq's Sunnis and Shiites have grown in recent months

Baghdad (CNN) -- Iraqi security forces raided a farm belonging to a prominent Sunni tribal leader Thursday, he and two other tribal leaders said, prompting fears that sectarian tensions could escalate in Iraq's restive al-Anbar province.

Dozens of Anbar tribal fighters have now surrounded the Iraqi army headquarters in Ramadi, demanding that Iraqi soldiers withdraw from Anbar province immediately, police officials in Ramadi told CNN.

Analysis: Iraq at crossroads as bombs explode

A curfew will be imposed in the province from 10 p.m. local time to 4 a.m., Iraqiya state TV reported.

Sheikh Ali Hatem al-Suleiman, emir of the Dulaim tribes, told CNN the security forces were seeking to arrest him when they carried out the raid on his farm near Ramadi.

Why are Iraq's Sunnis so upset?
Iraq's Sunnis form own army
Sectarian strife on rise in Iraq
Can Iraq combat sectarian violence?

He has been instrumental in setting up the so-called "Army of Pride and Dignity," an armed force formed by the tribes in Ramadi and elsewhere in Anbar province. Each tribe is responsible for its own men and their actions.

Read more: Iraq pulls plug on 'misleading' TV networks

Speaking by phone from Ramadi, which lies about 100 kilometers (62 miles) west of Baghdad, al-Suleiman said that dozens of Iraqi soldiers had raided one of his farms early Thursday and detained three of his farmers.

Later, he said, dozens of Army of Pride and Dignity members tracked down the Iraqi army convoy that conducted the raid and clashed with it.

Al-Suleiman said that the tribal fighters had managed to free the three farmers.

"This is it; enough is enough. We will attack every Iraqi army checkpoint in Anbar if they don't withdraw from Anbar province immediately," he said.

"We will not accept any talks or negotiations with the government anymore."

Two other tribal leaders in Ramadi told CNN that Iraqi soldiers called the local police officers "traitors" because they were not cooperating with them.

Read more: Iraqi leader sounds warning about sectarian strife

Two police officers in Ramadi earlier said gunmen had clashed with Iraqi soldiers in eastern Ramadi on Thursday morning but could not give further details.

Al-Suleiman said the Army of Pride and Dignity is on full alert in Anbar province.

"We've been ready for a long time. We are certain that al-Maliki is a liar, the political process is just a game," al-Suleiman told CNN's Arwa Damon in an interview on May 5.

"Our weapons are everywhere, light, medium, and on up."

The tribes allied themselves with al Qaeda in Iraq and battled against U.S. forces for years before turning against the terrorist group in 2006.

But al-Suleiman said that al Qaeda militants will not be allowed to dominate again. "The tribes are not and will not again be a nurturing ground for terrorism," he said.

Read more: Iraq, on edge over violence, endures more bloodshed

Tensions have grown in recent months between Iraq's Sunnis and Shiites, especially after an incident in Hawija, in Kirkuk province, last month where Iraqi security forces raided a site used by Sunni protesters to demonstrate against the Shiite-led government. At least 50 people were killed and more than 85 others injured in a clash between security forces and gunmen.

Sunnis, who comprise a minority of Iraqis, had clout during the Saddam Hussein era but have been politically marginalized since his overthrow. Shiites, who make up a majority of Iraqis, now dominate the government.

Since December, tens of thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets of predominately Sunni provinces -- including Anbar, Nineveh, Salaheddin and Diyala -- demanding that the Shiite-led government stop what they call second-class treatment of Iraq's Sunni community.

CNN's Arwa Damon and Laura Smith-Spark contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
November 26, 2014 -- Updated 1612 GMT (0012 HKT)
Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson says he was just doing his "job right" when he shot and killed black teenager Michael Brown.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 0118 GMT (0918 HKT)
The interior of the Formosa Boulevard Mass Rapid Transit Station in Kaohsiung, in southern Taiwan.
Stunning stations where your first priority won't be finding the nearest exit.
November 25, 2014 -- Updated 2318 GMT (0718 HKT)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says women's "nature is different," sparking fury.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 1043 GMT (1843 HKT)
A 30-year-old woman has been charged with attempting to kill a baby police say spent five days down a drain before being discovered by cyclists.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 0121 GMT (0921 HKT)
If it wasn't for a comic's skit, Bill Cosby would still be America's favorite father, says expert.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 0051 GMT (0851 HKT)
Where do hip young things hang out in Taiwan?
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 1550 GMT (2350 HKT)
Obama orders the most sweeping overhaul of U.S. immigration in decades, prioritizing the deportation of "felons, not families."
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 2106 GMT (0506 HKT)
Fighters loyal to ISIS are now in control of Derna, a city on Libya's Mediterranean coast.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 2319 GMT (0719 HKT)
China and likely other countries have the capacity to shut down the U.S. power grid, says the NSA.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1945 GMT (0345 HKT)
The founder of a U.S. nonprofit that works with returning soldiers is named CNN's Hero of the Year.
November 26, 2014 -- Updated 1557 GMT (2357 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT