UK & World News
Iraq: US 'Will Not Join' Battle For Fallujah
The US has said it will not get involved in the fight for Fallujah and Ramadi after the Iraqi cities fell under the control of al Qaeda-linked militants.
The US Secretary of State John Kerry made it clear that, although Washington would provide "assistance" to Iraqi security forces, they will not put US "boots on the ground".
Clashes erupted after the predominantly Shia government cleared a Sunni-Arab protest camp in Ramadi last week.
After a few days the fighting spread to neighbouring Fallujah, a hotbed of insurgent activity in Anbar province following the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Now Fallujah is reportedly to be under the control of fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), an Islamist insurgent group active in Iraq and Syria.
Iraqi security forces said they were preparing for a major attack on Sunday which would allow them to retake the cities.
Earlier, Lt Gen Rashee Fleih of the Anbar Military Command said it would take "two to three days" to dislodge the militants.
The army is currently paused on the edge of Fallujah while residents are allowed to leave, officials said.
There are four separate groups involved in the battle for control of Anbar province; the Iraqi security forces, Sunni tribes loyal to the government, the anti-government Military Council of the Tribes, and the ISIL.
Mr Kerry told reporters in Jerusalem: "We are not obviously contemplating returning, we are not contemplating putting boots on the ground, this is their fight.
"But we're going to help them in their fight ... we are going to do everything that is possible to help them."
In 2004, Fallujah saw some of the worst fighting of the Iraq conflict, with US troops trying to root out insurgents during violent street battles which left much of the city-centre destroyed.
US forces eventually took control of Anbar province from militants with the support of Sunni Arab tribesmen who joined forces with the US in 2006.
Mr Kerry said Washington was "very, very concerned" about the resurgence of the ISIL after some 160 people were killed over the weekend.
The ISIL is currently enjoying a significant resurgence in Iraq and Syria, where it has become a major player in the three-year-old revolution against President Bashar al Assad.
But it has received strong criticism for imposing strict Sharia law in the areas it controls.
Meanwhile, at least 15 people have been killed in a series of bombings in commercial areas of the capital, Baghdad.
The deadliest attack took place in northern Baghdad's mainly Shia district of Shaab where two car bombs went off killing at least nine people and wounding 25.
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