Sunni tribes join Shiite militias in battle for Iraqi town, a rare show of sectarian unity

McClatchy reports: Sunni Muslim tribesmen, Shiite militia fighters and Iraqi security forces set out Saturday to recapture a key city in Anbar province and stop Islamic State atrocities against a local tribe in an extraordinary coalition that could stir sectarian tensions or potentially serve as a model for future cooperation against the militants.

The operation to liberate Hit, about 90 miles west of Baghdad, could reshape the situation in Anbar in a way that would impact the mission of U.S. troops who are being deployed to the province from among the additional 1,500 U.S. military advisers the Pentagon said it is sending to Iraq at the end of the year.

“This is a dramatic change,” said Hisham al Hashimi, a prominent Iraqi defense analyst. “We have the Sunni Arab tribes fighting hand in hand with the Shiites.”

The move was preceded by U.S. airstrikes against Islamic State positions on the route of the advance, which was moving slowly because of numerous roadside bombs, according to two tribal leaders reached by telephone. [Continue reading…]

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