UK & World News

  • 5 January 2014, 10:36

Iraqi Troops Remain Until Militants 'Eliminated'

Al Qaeda-linked fighters have reportedly taken control of Fallujah, as the Iraqi army shells the city to try and seize it back.

At least eight people have been killed and 30 others hurt in the latest violence, according to officials and medical sources.

It comes as Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki insisted government troops would remain in the Anbar region until al Qaeda-linked militants are "eliminated".

He said: "There will be no retreat until we eliminate this gang and rid the people of Anbar of their evil acts.

"The people of Anbar asked the government for help, they called us to come to rescue them from terrorists."

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has been tightening its grip in the Sunni-dominated Anbar province, near the Syrian border, as it tries to create an Islamic state across the Iraqi-Syrian borders.

Parts of Fallujah and Ramadi, the other main city in Anbar, have been held by Sunni Muslim militants for days.

The areas were both strongholds of Sunni insurgents during the US-led conflict that topped Saddam Hussein in 2003.

In Ramadi, tribesmen and the army have worked together to counter al Qaeda militants seeking to take control.

But in Fallujah, ISIL received a boost after being joined by tribesmen against the government.

The fighting began in Ramadi on Monday, when security forces broke up an anti-government camp demonstrating against what Sunnis see as the marginalisation of their community.

The violence then spread to Fallujah, and when security forces left both cities after fighting the militants, it cleared the way for ISIL to move in.

"Fallujah is under the control of ISIL," a senior security official in Anbar province told the AFP news agency, adding the outskirts were in the hands of local police.

Iraqi ground forces commander Staff General Ali Ghaidan Majeed said police and tribesmen were hunting for militants in Ramadi, with army support.

And he said authorities were working on "fixing the situation in Fallujah".

:: Watch Sky News live on television, on Sky channel 501, Virgin Media channel 602, Freeview channel 82 and Freesat channel 202.

Advertisement