ISIS executes 13 Iraqi tribesmen as Pope decries persecution of Christians

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SHAFAQNA – The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) executed at least 13 members of an Iraqi tribe in Anbar’s Ramadi district, a tribal leader said on Sunday. Naim al-Keud, one of the leaders of the Iraqi Albu Nimr tribe, told Anadolu Agency that the public execution of members of his tribe took place in the Heet district of the northern Anbar province.

Keud said ISIS bears a grudge against the tribe, and that the terrorist group executed hundreds of tribesmen before.

ISIS executed 322 tribesmen in total, according to the latest updated death toll in early November.

Anbar police chief Kazim Mohammed al-Fahdawi said a joint force from the army and the police supported by tribesmen, attacked an armed ISIS group in Ramadi’s Havz district, killing at least eight militants and destroying a military vehicle.

The joint forces also seized the dead bodies of eight militants in the al-Sajaria area east of the city, Fahdawi said.

Meanwhile, according to Anadolu Agency, ISIS kidnapped at least 10 Iraqi officers on Saturday in the northern province of Mosul.

“Ten officers, who were on duty, were kidnapped by ISIL and taken to an unknown place,” Mosul Police Captain Ahmad al-Jabbar told Anadolu, using an alternative acronym for ISIS.

The police captain claimed the kidnapped officers included some of high rank.

In recent weeks, the Iraqi army and pro-government fighters have successfully regained territories from ISIS east of the country and halted attacks in ISIS-controlled areas in northwestern Iraq.

Large swathes of land in Iraq have become ISIS strongholds as the extremist group, which declared a “caliphate” in the territory it seized in Iraq and Syria, drove Iraq’s army – the recipient of $25 billion in US training and funding since the 2003 invasion – to collapse.

The United States, backed by some Western and Arab allies, launched airstrikes against the group in Iraq in August, expanding operations to targets in Syria a month later.

However, the air campaign, which Washington says aims to degrade ISIS’ military capability, remains the subject of debate, with critics pointing to ISIS’ advances and battlefield successes despite the raids.

The influx in “terrorist” attacks raises questions about the effectiveness of the US “war on terror” launched by the Bush administration after the 9/11 attacks, which included the US invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

The campaign failed to eliminate or even reduce terrorism, as a recent report revealed a steady increase in the death toll over the last 14 years, from 3,361 in 2000 to 11,133 in 2012 and 17,958 in 2013.

On the contrary, the campaign in general and the US invasion of Iraq in particular served as a recruitment tool for terrorist groups, such as ISIS, as figures show that terrorism rose precipitously in Iraq since 2003.

Pope Francis sends a message to Iraqi Christians

Pope Francis said Christians are being “driven from the Middle East” in a message to Iraqi Christians forced to flee their homeland by ISIS militants.

“Christians are being driven from the Middle East in suffering,” the pontiff said, according to a transcript of the video address due to be broadcast later Saturday during a visit by French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin to the Iraqi city of Erbil.

Barbarin, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Lyon, and his diocese is twinned with that of Mosul. He is on his second trip to Erbil since Mosul fell, having gone in July.

He is to meet Louis Raphael I Sako, patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church.

Thousands of Christians have taken refuge in Erbil after ISIS militants in June overran Mosul, Iraq’s second city, and forced hundreds of thousands of Christians and members of the Yazidi community to flee their homes.

Last weekend, the pontiff visited Turkey, during which he met Bartholomew I, the ecumenical patriarch and spiritual leader of the world’s some 250 million Orthodox Christians.

The two clerics issued a joint statement in which they spoke out against anti-Christian violence in the region.

“As I mentioned in Ankara … due to an extremist fundamentalist group, entire communities, especially, but not only, Christians and Yazidis, suffered, and still suffer, inhuman violence because of their ethnic religious identity,” the pope said Saturday.

“Christians and Yazidis were forcibly removed from their homes, have had to give up everything to save their lives and not deny the faith. The violence has also affected sacred buildings, monuments, religious symbols and cultural heritage, as if to erase every trace, every memory of the other. It seems as if these people do not want us to be Christians,” he said to the Iraqi Christians, who he said “bear witness to Christ.”

“I think of the wounds, the pain of the mothers with their children, the elderly and displaced persons, the wounds of those who are victims of any kind of violence,” he added.

On Thursday, al-Azhar, Sunni Islam’s most prestigious center of learning, urged Christians in the Arab world to “stay rooted in their homelands” in the face of jihadist violence and not flee into exile.

“We condemn the forced exile of Christians and other religious or ethnic groups,” it said.

Source :  (Anadolu, AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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