BAGHDAD, Jan. 29 (UPI) -- Iraqi forces regained control of parts of two cities overrun by militants aligned with al-Qaida after intense fighting that's killed 850, officials said.
Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammed al-Askari said government forces had reclaimed portions of Ramadi and Fallujah after Sunni fighters had taken control of the areas in fighting the previous several weeks.
The battles are taking place in Anbar province, a Sunni-dominated portion of Iraq that shares a border with Syria. The militant group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL took control of Fallujah last month and government forces have yet to win it back.
Progress was made Wednesday when the government took back Al-Nasaf, on the western outskirts of Fallujah. Al-Askari said the area would be turned back over to tribal leaders who aligned themselves with the Shiite-led central government to get their land back, Middle East News Agency reported.
Experts said the violence in Iraq is the worst since sectarian strife emerged in 2006 following the American-led invasion in 2003 that toppled Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein.