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Islamic State militants kill 85 more members of Iraqi tribe

BAGHDAD: Islamic State executed 85 more members of the Albu Nimr tribe in Iraq in a mass killing campaign launched last week to break their resistance to the group’s territorial advances, a tribal leader and security official said on Saturday.

Sheikh Naeem al-Ga’oud, one of the tribe’s chiefs, told Reuters that Islamic State had killed 50 members of Albu Nimr who were fleeing the al Qaeda offshoot on Friday. In a separate incident, a security official said 35 bodies were found in a mass grave.

The sustained bloodshed appears to demonstrate Islamic State’s resilience to US airstrikes against militant targets in parts of Iraq and Syria it controls. Ga’oud said he had repeatedly asked the Shi’ite-led central government for weapons but his pleas had been ignored.

Islamic State has been killing at will, with no signs that the Shi’ite-led government will send armed forces to the rescue of Albu Nimr or other tribes under threat anytime soon.

Members of the Albu Nimr tribe had held out for weeks under siege by Islamic State fighters in Anbar Province to the west of Baghdad, but finally ran low on ammunition, fuel and food.

Hundreds of tribal fighters withdrew and members of the tribe fled their main village Zauiyat albu Nimr.

Islamic State rounded up many of them, shot them at close range and dumped them in mass graves. Over 300 people have been executed since the killing began in the middle of last week, Ga’oud and security officials.

Security officials and witnesses have confirmed that bodies of more than 200 people were found in mass graves on Tuesday and Wednesday, having been shot at close range.

The vast desert province of Anbar includes towns in the Euphrates River valley dominated by Sunni tribes, running from the Syrian border to the western outskirts of Baghdad.

It was the main battleground between U.S. Marines and al Qaeda during the "surge" campaign in 2006-2007, the bloodiest phase of the U.S. war in Iraq, when American troops enlisted the tribes to help them defeat al Qaeda fighters.

Members of the Albu Nimir tribe helped the Americans defeat al Qaeda in its stronghold of Anbar. Now they are on the defensive as Islamic State militants who possess superior weapons exact revenge, including executions of tribesmen in public squares, for weeks of defiance.

In Anbar, the militants are encircling a large air base and the vital Haditha dam on the Euphrates. Fighters control towns from the Syrian border to parts of provincial capital Ramadi and into the lush irrigated areas near Baghdad