The Misled Foreign Fighters in Iraq*
By Hassan Al-Obaidi in Baghdad
Iraqi security forces have killed more than 200 foreign fighters in the ranks of the “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” (ISIL) during battles over the past month, the Ministry of Defence said.
Many of these fighters had entered the country illegally through Syria, the ministry said.
The official toll compiled from police and army reports “shows the organisation lost a very large number of its foreign fighters in Iraq over the past month, the majority of them in Mosul, Fallujah, Ramadi, Tikrit and south of Kirkuk”, said ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mohammed al-Askari.
The official toll shows at least 228 foreign fighters were killed in the past month, he told Mawtani, noting the toll is likely much higher due to the group’s removal of bodies during clashes.
“It is shameful that Muslims would kill one another, but disastrous that anyone would believe ISIL’s slogans,” said Kirkuk cleric Salem al-Barzanji, describing the influx of foreign fighters into Iraq as “saddening”.
“Iraqis want security and relief, they do not need fighters to come and kill them,” he said.
Anyone thinking of travelling to Iraq to fight should instead study the right path of Islam, he added.
“We, as clerics, say to them, ‘You are not welcome. News of your arrival will sadden us, while news of your death or arrest will make every Iraqi man and woman rejoice. Spare us your extremism, we want to shut the doors of our country and solve our problems ourselves.'”
A number of those killed were youth who had been misled, said Iraqi joint operations command spokesman Lt. Gen. Qassem Atta.
These young men “could have now been sitting in their seats in colleges or their homes, safe and sound”, he told Mawtani.
“But their entrance [into Iraq] and their attacks on civilians and security forces precluded this and they were killed.”
Young men from the Gulf, Syria, Yemen, Jordan, the Arab Maghreb, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Chechnya, the Caucasus and Europe numbered among the dead, he said.
“They were deceived and came to Iraq, where they expected to find the same picture ISIL portrayed to them online,” he said.
Many foreign gunmen have exhibited signs of shock and disbelief upon discovering “ISIL’s falsity”, Iraqi army commander in Anbar Lt. Gen. Rasheed Flaih told Mawtani.
These recruits have “fallen into the trap of terrorism”, he said, noting that upon investigation, many were found to have left their countries without the knowledge of their families.
Flaih had this message for all youth considering coming to Iraq to fight in the ranks of ISIL: “Iraq will not be a picnic for you by any means”.
“The Iraqi people’s insistence on a free and stable country free of extremism is greater than ISIL’s sick dreams of establishing an alleged caliphate,” he added.
Iraqi national security adviser Faleh al-Fayyadh thanked the people of Fallujah, Mosul, Kirkuk and Tikrit for their co-operation with the security forces.
“The majority of foreign terrorists were located with the help of residents and attacked with direct airstrikes,” he said.
This demonstrates that Iraqis reject the presence of foreigners who seek to control them, he added.