[QODLink]
Middle East

Iraq army assault under way to eject al-Qaeda

Battles in Anbar province comes after government vowed to launch "major attack" to retake Fallujah from fighters.

Last updated: 06 Jan 2014 00:35
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback

An operation is under way to drive hardline fighters out of Iraq's Anbar province, with an aerial assault by government forces hitting east of Fallujah, and clashes between the Iraqi army and al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) near Ramadi leaving many dead.

Iraqi officials said fighting between the army and al-Qaeda-linked rebels near the provincial capital of Ramadi left at least 34 people dead on Sunday, including 22 soldiers and 12 civilians, AP news agency reported.

The officials also said 58 people were wounded in the clashes, along with an unknown number of anti-government fighters.

We are not obviously contemplating returning, we are not contemplating putting boots on the ground, this is their fight.

John Kerry,
US secretary of state

Iraq's Defence Ministry also released footage on Sunday that it said showed aerial bombings of al-Qaeda fighters' hideouts, after the government vowed earlier in the day to launch a "major attack" to retake Fallujah.

The city has been in the hands of fighters from ISIL since Saturday, a senior security official said.

Iraqi officials said on Sunday that it would take a few days to wrestle Fallujah and Ramadi from ISIL control.

Some local Sunni tribes insisted they should be included in any military operation, while other tribes in the area vowed to fight government forces attempting to take action in the area.

"The tribal revolutionaries will fight to protect the city of Fallujah and we swear to take on anyone from this sectarian government. And we also promise to repel this dirty act by the central government," an unnamed commander of the Fallujah Military Council said.

The takeover of Fallujah and parts of Ramadi, farther west, is the first time that tribal fighters have exercised such open control in major cities since the height of the bloody insurgency that followed the US-led invasion of 2003.

US 'very concerned'

US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday that the United States would provide assistance to Iraqi forces in their battle against the group but that it was "their fight".

Kerry said Washington was "very, very concerned" about the resurgence of ISIL but said it was not contemplating any return of US ground troops, after their withdrawal in December 2011.

"We are not obviously contemplating returning, we are not contemplating putting boots on the ground, this is their fight," Kerry told reporters in Jerusalem.

"But we're going to help them in their fight... We are going to do everything that is possible to help them."

On Friday and Saturday, more than 160 people were killed in the worst violence to hit Anbar province in years.

Al Jazeera's Iraq correspondent, Imran Khan, said: "For a lot of Iraqis... they don't want the return to US boots on the ground because they feel that that's just going backwards. But what they would like is much more public support from the Americans, and they'd also like much more military hardware support from the Americans."

Baghdad bombings

Elsewhere in Iraq, a wave of bombings earlier on Sunday hit the capital, Baghdad, killing at least 20 and wounding dozens more, Iraqi authorities said.

Iraqi police said the deadliest in Sunday's attacks took place in Baghdad's northern Shaab neighbourhood, when two parked car bombs exploded simultaneously near a restaurant and a tea house. Officials said that blast killed at least ten people and wounded 26.

582

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
As Western stars re-release 1980s charity hit, many Africans say it's a demeaning relic that can do more harm than good.
At least 25 tax collectors have been killed since 2012 in Mogadishu, a city awash in weapons and abject poverty.
Tokyo government claims its homeless population has hit a record low, but analysts - and the homeless - beg to differ.
3D printers can cheaply construct homes and could soon be deployed to help victims of catastrophe rebuild their lives.
Featured
Pro-Russia leaders' election in Ukraine's east shows bloody conflict is far from a peaceful resolution.
Critics challenge Canberra's move to refuse visas for West Africans in Ebola-besieged countries.
A key issue for Hispanics is the estimated 11.3 million immigrants in the US without papers who face deportation.
In 1970, only two mosques existed in the country, but now more than 200 offer sanctuary to Japan's Muslims.
Hundreds of the country's reporters eke out a living by finding news - then burying it for a price.