Dozens of al-Qaeda militants killed in Iraqi Anbar clashes

Dozens of al-Qaeda militants killed in Iraqi Anbar clashes
Fri Jan 3, 2014 20:22:35

Iraqi forces and tribesmen killed dozens of Al-Qaeda-linked militants Friday as they fought to dislodge them in and near the Anbar provincial capital of Ramadi, a senior militia leader said.

Parts of Ramadi and Fallujah, west of Baghdad, have been held by militants for days, harkening back to the years after the 2003 US-led invasion when both cities were insurgent strongholds.

Fighting began in the Ramadi area Monday, when security forces removed the main anti-government protest camp set up after demonstrations broke out in late 2012.

Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha, a senior leader of Anbar's Sahwa anti-Qaeda militia, told AFP security forces and tribesmen killed 16 fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group in Khaldiyah, near Ramadi, and 46 more in the city itself.

A police captain had earlier said fighters from ISIL, which operates in Syria as well, had advanced in early morning clashes into areas of central Ramadi and deployed snipers on one street.

But Iraqi police, SWAT forces and allied tribesmen later battled ISIL militants in the area, Lieutenant Colonel Muthanna al-Hazza told AFP.

A police colonel said the army had re-entered areas of Fallujah, between Ramadi and Baghdad, but that around a quarter of the city remained under ISIL control.

Soldiers and tribesmen held the rest and had also surrounded the city, he said.

However, a police lieutenant colonel said that while soldiers had deployed around the city, they had not yet entered.

Clashes erupted in the Ramadi area on Monday as security forces tore down the sprawling anti-government protest camp on a nearby highway.

The violence then spread to Fallujah, and a subsequent withdrawal of security forces from areas of both cities cleared the way for ISIL to move in.


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