Fighting erupted in the ISIS-stronghold of Fallujah on Friday after the extremist militants attacked a local woman for not covering her hands, according to Iraqi officials.
“The clashes started when tens of Fallujah men stood against ISIS militants who started to beat a woman in a Fallujah market because she was not wearing gloves,” said Sabah Karhoot, the chairman of the governing council of Anbar province where the city is located. “Therefore, the men could not stand and do nothing.”
ISIS, which has conquered much of Anbar, imposes an extremely strict dress code on populations it controls, with women having to cover almost every part of their bodies — including their hands — when in public.
“In the beginning they fought ISIS militants with their hands and knives,” Karhoot added. “After a while the situation evolved into armed clashes.”
The anti-ISIS fighters took control of parts of northern Fallujah, and called for government forces to support their fight against the militants, he added. The tribesmen also destroyed ISIS headquarters in the Julan area of Fallujah as well as two checkpoints, according to Rajeh Barakat, a member in the security committee of Anbar's governing council.
It was not immediately known how many people had been injured or killed.
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By the afternoon, ISIS militants were fleeing from the northern and southern parts of the Fallujah to head to the center, the exiled mayor of Fallujah, Sadoon Ubaid Al-Shalan, told NBC News.
Many Fallujah residents have grown restive amid food and water shortages. Strict codes of behavior mean an attack on one member of a tribe — particularly a woman or a girl — is considered extremely offensive.
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Much of Anbar is under ISIS control. Fallujah is the province’s second-largest city after Ramadi, which mostly fell back into government hands earlier this month with the help of the U.S.-led coalition forces. With the government focused on Ramadi it is uncertain whether they will come to the aid of Fallujah’s tribesmen.