A total of 255 tribesmen and local policemen were executed by the militants of the Islamic State (IS) after the group took them from their villages and towns in Iraq's western province of Anbar, a provincial security source said on Thursday.
The bodies of some 150 members of the Sunni tribal fighters and members of local police who fought the IS militants were found buried in a mass grave at a valley in Albu Ali al-Jasim area, near the provincial capital city of Ramadi, some 110 km west of the capital Baghdad, the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
Most of the bodies were for those accused by the IS of being part of the government-backed Sahwa paramilitary groups. The Sahwa group, also known as the Awakening Council or the Sons of Iraq, consists of armed groups, including some powerful anti-U.S. Sunni insurgent groups, who turned their rifles against the al-Qaida network after the latter exercised indiscriminate killings against both Shiite and Sunni Muslim communities.
Earlier in the day, the source said the IS group, an al-Qaida offshoot, captured some 75 tribesmen from the Sunni tribe of Albu Nimer in the militant seized town of Heet, some 160 km west of Baghdad, and executed them at noon for collaborating with the security forces against IS militants.
The killed tribesmen in Heet were shot in the head in front of dozens of residents who were forced to witness the executions, the source said.
The incident came a day after the IS militants executed some 30 tribesmen from Albu Nimer tribe.
Security forces and their allied Sunni tribesmen in Heet have been battling the extremist Sunni militants in fierce clashes since mid-October. They managed to keep hold of parts of Heet, preventing it from falling into the hands of IS militants who have taken control of around 80 percent of the town.
However, the government forces held their last positions in the town for only 10 days due to the lack of reinforcement troops and an ammunition shortage.
More than 1,000 heavily-armed tribesmen and some troops left the town in around 500 vehicles to take refuge in the nearby town of Barwana, which is still under the control of the Iraqi forces. Some government-allied tribesmen ceased fighting and returned to the town, while others apparently were captured by IS militants.
The IS group has seized around 80 percent of Iraq's largest province of Anbar and is trying to advance toward Baghdad, but several counter attacks by the security forces and Shiite militias have pushed them away from areas west of the capital, which contains a large Shiite population and is heavily fortified by security forces and Shiite militias.
Since December last year, insurgent attacks continue in the Sunni Arab heartland in west of Baghdad that stretches through Anbar province, which has been the scene of fierce clashes that flared up after Iraqi police dismantled an anti-government protest site outside the city of Ramadi.