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Tribal feuds spread fear in Iraq’s Basra

Tribal feuds spread fear in Iraq’s Basra

BAGHDAD: Iraqi forces at a checkpoint they between the northern outskirts of Basra and al-Dayr as they search for weapons and wanted people involved in tribal conflicts in the north of the Basra province on January 13, 2018. Photo: Haidar Mohammed Ali | AFP Daud Salman and his family stayed put in their Iraqi village despite years of regular clashes between tribes, but when a stray bullet wounded his son, it was time to move. Feuds between the region’s half-dozen tribes often flare into pitched battles with assault rifles and machine guns, killing bystanders and driving a never-ending cycle of revenge attacks.The region near Iraq’s southern border with Kuwait has long been the scene of inter-tribal battles over business disputes, questions of honour or even football matches.But with security forces deployed to the country’s north to battle the Islamic State group (IS), Basra residents caught in the crossfire say they feel abandoned.Peaceful families that have no weapons can’t live,” said Daud, 41.The clashes have transformed residential areas into battlefields, he said.It was during yet another gunfight that Daud’s son Ali, 15, took a bullet to the shoulder as he stood in front of the family home.That finally prompted the family to move to Basra city, away from the tribal areas.In the absence of heavily armed military and federal police forces, “local police are reluctant… to get involved in these battles because there is nothing to protect them,” said provincial council member Ghanem Hamid.Even in situations where they could prevent the violence, police officers  many of whom hail from the tribes involved  hesitate to intervene for fear of later reprisals. Haydar Ali, a 34-year-old engineer, suggested deploying soldiers and policemen from other provinces “who have no social relations or tribal ties that could affect their role”. Residents have called on security forces to confiscate weapons, but regular raids have had little impact on the vast numbers of arms circulating in the province. Tribes in Basra, the only province of Iraq with access to the sea, obtained a glut of weapons when the army of the late Saddam Hussein withdrew from Kuwait in 1991 in a hasty retreat.