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Heavy fighting reported in Ramadi and Fallujah, Iraq

Jan. 5, 2014 at 9:30 PM

BAGHDAD, Jan. 5 (UPI) -- Iraq was awash in violence Sunday, with government and militia forces battling insurgents and bombs taking a deadly toll in Baghdad, officials said.

A police official in Anbar province said dozens of militants were killed in fighting to retake Ramadi from Sunni insurgents affiliated with al-Qaida. While the government forces were finding success in Ramadi, they had made less progress in rousting militants from Fallujah after some tribal militias switched sides, the Times said.

Officials said 18 civilians died and 32 others were wounded as a result of the combat across the province, the Times said.

Meanwhile, a series of bombs killed at least 22 people and injured dozens of others in Baghdad, officials said. The Times said the deadliest attack targeted cafes and restaurants in a neighborhood in north Baghdad, killing 11 people and wounding nearly 30 others.

Three car bombs and one roadside bomb hit different areas of the city, al-Alam, Iranian TV news, reported.

The attack came after 55 militants linked to al-Qaida were killed during clashes with security forces and Sunni tribesmen, state-run al-Iraqiya television said.

The Times said there were several Iraqi airstrikes Sunday, including one against a militants base in Karma, located between Ramadi and Fallujah. An Iraqi state television channel said 35 militants were killed in that strike.

The White House issued a statement Sunday, saying Antony Blinken, U.S. President Barack Obama's deputy national security adviser, had spoken with Falah al-Fayyad, Iraq's national security adviser, to express U.S. "support for ongoing operations by the Iraqi security forces in coordination with local and tribal movements in Anbar province" against the militants.

Security forces lost control of Fallujah to tribesmen and al-Qaida fighters following days of fierce clashes, which started when police ended an anti-government protest nearby.

"Fallujah is under control of armed tribesmen and fighters from [an] al-Qaida organization, and there is no presence for the government security forces," a police source told China's Xinhua News Agency.

Residents of the city said Sunni tribesmen were walking through the city armed with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades.

About 160 people were killed in Anbar province Friday and Saturday.

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