At least 50 members of the Iraqi armed forces and seven fighters have been killed in clashes in the city of Ramadi, Al Jazeera’s reporter says, while two deadly car bombs have hit the capital Baghdad.
Fighting between the army and tribal fighters erupted on Thursday and continued until the early hours of Friday morning near a government complex in Ramadi, the capital of the western Anbar province.
Violence escalated in the Sunni-dominated province after anti-government fighters seized the city of Fallujah and parts of Ramadi earlier in January. Since then, security forces have managed to wrest back control of most of Ramadi, but a stalemate has persisted in Fallujah.
Unrest has been driven principally by complaints among the Sunni Arab minority of mistreatment by the Shia-led government and security forces, and by the civil war in neighbouring Syria.
Meanwhile, in Baghdad, two car bombs exploded on Thursday, killing at least 13 people and injuring scores.
The first car bomb detonated near a petrol station in the Ameen area in the capital's east, killing at least seven people and wounding 35, officials said.
The other car bomb exploded in an area of shops in the Baghdad's northern Shia-majority Sadr City district, killing at least six people and wounding 18.
The latest wave of violence comes in the run-up to a parliamentary vote scheduled at the end of the month.
The parliamentary elections, the first since the US forces pulled out in 2011, will be a major test for security forces, who were able to keep violence to a minimum during last year's provincial polls, but have subsequently failed to bring a year-long surge in unrest under control.
The bloodshed in Iraq has killed more than 2,500 people this year and sparked fears Iraq is slipping back into the all-out sectarian fighting of 2006-2007.
At least 290 people have been killed across the country this month alone, according to AFP news agency figures based on security and medical sources.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies