Erbil, Asharq Al-Awsat—President of The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Massoud Barzani on Sunday told a meeting of leaders of Sunni tribes based west of Mosul that citizens who backed the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) will not be allowed back into liberated areas.
“I would like my message in this respect to be clear and frank: [The supporters] cannot return to those areas and their fate will be similar to that of ISIS,” Barzani told some 42 Sunni tribal leaders in Dahuk on Sunday.
Kurdish Peshmerga forces have managed to drive out ISIS from areas south and north of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city which fell to the ultra-radical group last August.
ISIS currently controls large swaths of land on the western and eastern sides of the border between Iraq and Syria.
Barzani discussed with the tribal leaders the recent developments in the area and the best ways to fend off the threat of the militants’ advancement.
However, the Kurdish leader assured tribal sheikhs that “citizens who refused to back ISIS and chose to live in their areas without following the group when it was driven out should live in complete freedom.”
Some accuse mostly Sunni populations in ISIS-controlled areas of sympathizing with the Islamist militants.
He urged the tribal sheikhs to advise those who remained in their areas to “commit to brotherhood, coexistence and cooperation”, principles, he maintained, all Kurds adhered to.
Barzani said ISIS’s strategy of instigating Sunnis against Kurds had failed, adding that Sunni-populated areas had suffered most from the “misguided” group.
“We will do everything in our power to provide the necessary services to your areas,” he said, promising that he will ask the KRG to take practical steps immediately.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, a senior Shammar tribe member, Sheikh Thaer Abdul-Karim Watban Al-Jarba, said: “The meeting with the KRG president was positive . . . and we explained to him the violations committed in some areas and promised that they will not be repeated again.”
Jarba added that the Sunni tribes discussed with Barzani ways to drive out ISIS from Mosul and other areas in the Nineveh province.
“He told us he welcomes any Arab tribe to join the anti-ISIS operation.” Jarba said.