Iraq: Islamist militants tighten screws on Fallujah

A man inspects the site of a mortar attack in Fallujah on Jan. 16 by government forces who are edging closer to an assault on the city

Al Qaeda-linked militants are fanning out across Fallujah, imposing religious restrictions on the terrified population and strong-arming local leaders in a display of force that has shaken prospects of a peaceful resolution of the city’s conflict.

Tribal leaders and residents of Fallujah say the actions by the militants of the predominantly Sunni Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham, or ISIS, have pushed the Shiite-dominated central government in Baghdad closer to an all-out war to try to recapture the city.

Over the past two days, the militants briefly kidnapped a delegation of local tribal leaders, staged armed parades in a show of force, and established informal Islamic courts.

They also began enforcing their own code of morality, including the closure of all music stores deemed un-Islamic.

“ISIS has ended its last chance for peace for Fallujah,” said Sheik Muhammed al Dulaimi a member of Fallujah’s tribal council and leader in one of the main western Iraqi tribes who was involved in negotiations with the militants. “They are enemies of peace.”