Arab League unites to tackle IS extremist threat

THE Arab League has agreed to take urgent measures to combat extremists like the Islamic State (IS) group as one of its suicide bombers killed 16 people at a meeting of Sunni tribal fighters and security troops in Iraq.

Yazidi women call for the release of IS captives outside the European Parliament in Brussels. Picture: Getty
Yazidi women call for the release of IS captives outside the European Parliament in Brussels. Picture: Getty

The resolution, issued after late-night meetings of Arab foreign ministers on Sunday, does not explicitly back American military action against the group. But US president Barack Obama is seeking an international coalition to challenge the IS group and is expected to outline his plan tomorrow.

The resolution, issued as a separate statement from a comprehensive one dealing with Arab affairs, reflected a new sense of urgency among the 22-member states to challenge the militant group that has seized large swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria. It calls for immediate measures to combat the group on the political, defence, security and legal levels.

The resolution also backed the United Nations one issued last month that imposed sanctions on a number of the group’s fighters and called on countries to adopt measures to combat terrorism. The council resolution was adopted under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, meaning it can be militarily enforced.

US secretary of state John Kerry is expected in the region this week to discuss details of the coming US policy.

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Mustafa Alani, director of the security and defence department at the Gulf Research Centre in Geneva, said the resolution shows Arab countries remain uncertain about US policy regarding IS. He said they also worry about the US taking a selective approach to handling the issue by choosing to single out Iraq for action but not addressing the turmoil in Syria.

“There will be no signing on a white paper,” Mr Alani said. Arabs are looking for “equal efforts in changing the situation in Syria. Without it, it is a lost war.”

The IS group, which broke away from al-Qaeda, has declared a proto-state straddling the border of Iraq and Syria.

Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region have been critical of America’s reluctance to enter the Syrian civil war, in which Iran, a major non-Arab rival to the region, has been a main backer of the government of president Bashar Assad.

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Iraq is in the midst of an unprecedented crisis after the IS offensive, which included militants committing beheadings and mass killings while targeting minorities in the country.

In yesterday’s attack, the bomber drove an explosives-laden Humvee, apparently seized from the Iraqi military, into the gathering of a major Sunni tribe, the Jabour, and security forces in Duluiyah, some 45 miles north of Baghdad, a police officer said. The explosion killed 16 and wounded at least 55 people, the officer said.

The town of Duluiyah briefly fell to the Sunni-dominated IS group for a few days in July but the Jabour tribesmen, who have aligned themselves with the Iraqi forces in the battle against the extremists, took it back.

After the suicide bombing, militants crossed a small river on Duluiyah’s outskirts and attacked the town, setting off fierce clashes. In an online statement, IS claimed responsibility for the attack, saying two Saudi suicide bombers had targeted a police building and the gathering of Sunni militiamen.

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Iraqi security forces and Shiite militias have been fighting against the militants with assistance from US air strikes.

After such strikes, Iraqi security forces yesterday retook the Anbar provincial town of Barwana, across the Euphrates River from the town of Haditha, about 140 miles northwest of Baghdad.

Meanwhile, parliament was scheduled to vote on a new government, a key step in facing IS. But it was unclear if the session would go ahead since political rivals continued to negotiating on prime minister-designate Haider al-Abadi’s proposed cabinet line-up.