Iraqi Sunni tribes have begun fighting Sunni insurgents in the Anbar province on Friday, according to the Agence-France Press. The tribal leaders’ decision came a day after former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki resigned from his position in favor of a more inclusive government.
"This popular revolution was agreed on with all the tribes that want to fight IS [Islamic State, also known as ISIS], which spilled our blood," Sheikh Abduljabbar Abu Risha, one tribal leader told AFP.
Members of more than 25 Sunni tribes took part in the clashes, which were ongoing as of Friday morning, according to Anbar police Chief Major General Ahmed Saddak. He said at least 12 militants have already been killed.
Abu Risha told the AFP that the fighting had little to do with Maliki’s resignation. In a statement, tribal leaders addressed new Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and said they would consider joining his government if locals were allowed to run the Sunni provinces, according to the BBC.
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Their decision could mark a major turning point in the more than two month old clashes between Iraqis and Sunni insurgent group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, now known as simply the Islamic State. The militant group was able to several towns, many of them in the Anbar province, largely because of the growing sectarian divide in Iraq between the majority Shia government and the Sunnis.
Iraq has a predominately Shia population anywhere between 60 and 65 percent. Sunnis make up between 32 and 37 percent of the country.
Meanwhile, the Islamic State blew up a Shiite prayer hall on Friday in the northern Iraqi town of Jalawla and then executed the man who calls for prayer, the muezzin, in front of the mosque, according to witnesses who spoke to the AFP.