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SDF issues ‘general amnesty’ to rebelling Arab tribes in Syria

The SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces) has issued a “general amnesty” to Arab tribal fighters in Deir Ezzor, as it looks to diffuse tensions after days of bloody fighting, a Middle East Eye (MEE) report said on September 7. “We have a decision to issue a general amnesty for those involved,” SDF commander Mazloum Abdi was reported as saying on September 7. “We already released half that were arrested, and we will release the rest,” he added.

Fighting broke out in the oil-rich province of Deir Ezzor on August 27, when the SDF detained Ahmad al-Khabil, also known as Abu Khawla, the controversial head of the Deir Ezzor military council, amid suspicion he was conspiring to oust the US-backed force from the region.

Former US officials and Arab tribal leaders reportedly said that Abu Khawla’s arrest was the spark that ignited fighting motivated by broader local grievances over corruption and political disenfranchisement.

One of the main demands of the tribes was an end to SDF rule and the creation of an independent military council made up of local Arabs that would coordinate security and economic assistance directly with the US.

The report cited Abdi saying in an interview with Reuters that there were “flaws” in the way local councils had been run. “There are gaps, and there were mistakes on the ground,” he said.

The SDF has wrested back control of the territory from the rebelling tribes. Sources within the al-Aqeedat tribe of Deir Ezzor told MEE that Ibrahim al-Hifl, a tribal leader who had become the public face of the fight, fled to Syrian government-controlled territory.

Deir Ezzor is split along the Euphrates River. The US and its allies hold the eastern bank, while Syrian government forces and their Russian and Iranian allies control the west.

The US-backed SDF is a multiethnic Syrian force, but its backbone is the Kurdish People’s Protection Units or YPG, a group with ties to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, the MEE report added.

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