Nine al-Qaeda members wanted by the Iraqi judiciary turned themselves in to Anbar police Tuesday (August 7th) as part of a security agreement between the local government and Iraqi tribes, officials said.
"Tribal leaders from the border city of Qaim facilitated the gunmen's surrender to the Anbar police command after being assured [the gunmen] will receive a fair and honest trial," Col. Rahim Zaban, the Anbar police spokesperson, told Mawtani.
Among those who surrendered were "three prominent elements involved in many rocket attacks on Anbar and Ninawa, most notably Sheikh Ghazi al-Deraa", he said.
The gunmen also handed over a number of weapons and explosives they had in their possession, Zaban said.
While in police custody, "the gunmen expressed regret for working with al-Qaeda and stressed they were also victims of a set-up and fake slogans," he said.
Maj. Gen. Hadi Kassar, the Anbar police chief, said the gunmen's "surrender proceeded legally", adding that they "came to the police headquarters accompanied by the Iraqi tribesmen out of their own total will".
"The gunmen [will] be subjected to a fair trial on the basis of article four of Iraq's anti-terrorism law," he said. "They have the right to have lawyers represent them, or the court will appoint lawyers for them in case they are unable to do so."
He said the gunmen's decision to surrender "will be taken into consideration" and may mitigate their sentences.
"The gunmen co-operated with the police by providing information about other gunmen and weapons depots, and it will help a great deal in easing the sentences that will be issued by the Iraqi judiciary," he said.
The gunmen's surrender follows an August 1st announcement by officials in Anbar province that a new security agreement was signed with six Iraqi tribes found along the Syrian border.
Tribal leaders pledged to hand over wanted al-Qaeda fugitives if found inside their areas of influence, including Qaim, Haswa, Rumana, al-Dhib, al-Wadi, al-Hud, al-Shareet, and al-Sahal, said Anbar provincial council chairman Sadoun al-Shaalan.
The security deal, forged by the council's defence and security committee as well as the police command, came after a joint army and police operation to clear the western desert area of al-Qaeda gunmen, al-Shaalan said.
"The agreement calls for total [co-operation] with those tribes to hand over the wanted persons, and to refrain from sheltering them, in accordance with Iraqi law," he said.
Officials praised the Iraqi tribes' work in helping security forces maintain peace and order.
"Tribal leaders and religious figures played a major role during the three days that followed the signing of the agreement to convince the gunmen to turn themselves in," said Lt. Col. Nejim al-Dulaimi, the Anbar operations command spokesperson.
He praised residents in Qaim who refused "to provide new shelters for [the fugitives] after their photos were posted at checkpoints".
"The security forces are now making contacts with tribal and religious figures to persuade a number of terrorists to turn themselves in before they are killed or detained," he said.
Leader of Iraq's Sahwa Council Sheikh Ahmed Abu Reesha said, "The gunmen's surrender is evidence that Iraq's security forces have the upper hand, not al-Qaeda."
"We advise others to surrender before it is too late because those who may not be captured will be killed," he said.
"We will seek a better life by seeing those charged with killing people without any reason sent to prison," said Sheikh Nawaf Reehan, chief of the Albu Bali tribe in Qaim.
"Our co-operation with the police will achieve this because as citizens we want peace and security to prevail in Iraq," he said.