Iraqi clashes spread to Fallujah as protest camp cleared

Iraqi clashes spread to Fallujah as protest camp cleared
Mon Dec 30, 2013 19:59:39

Iraqi forces battled militants in Fallujah on Monday as clashes spread to a second city after an anti-government protest camp was demolished, a police officer said.

Captain Omar Oda said militants burned several military vehicles.

The gunmen also attacked army patrols deployed along the main highway leading to Ramadi.

The clashes followed deadly violence in nearby western Anbar province, where at least 13 were killed including 10 gunmen in fighting that broke out as the army demolished a camp where protesters had gathered for more than a year.

Protests broke out in the areas in December 2012 after the arrest of guards of then-finance minister Rafa al-Essawi on terrorism charges.

The Iraqi government has repeatedly vowed to remove the camp and accused protesters of stirring strife and sheltering al Qaeda-linked militants.

Violence has spiked this year as al Qaeda-linked militants target the government and anyone seen to be supporting it.

Police sources said Monday's clashes broke out when gunmen opened fire on police special forces trying to enter Ramadi, the western city where the protest camp is located.

Gunshots and blasts were heard in parts of the city. The gunmen destroyed four police vehicles and killed at least three policemen in the north of Ramadi, one source said.

The bodies of 10 other people killed in the clashes were brought into Ramadi's morgue, hospital and morgue sources told Reuters.

Defense ministry spokesman Lieutenant-General Mohammed al-Askari told state television the decision to remove the camp came after tribal leaders and local government and defense ministry officials reached a deal.

Tensions have been rising over the past few weeks in Anbar.

The army launched a major operation in Anbar to flush out al Qaeda militants after an attack killed at least 18 soldiers including an army commander on December 21.


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