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Iraq to send army to turbulent Anbar province

Updated: 2014-01-02 16:24
( Xinhua)

BAGHDAD -- Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Wednesday that he changed his earlier decision to withdraw the army from riotous cities in Anbar and will instead send reinforcements to the province where clashes continued for a third day.

"I will not withdraw troops and will send additional forces" to Anbar province in response to the requests from the residents and the local government, the state-owned Al Iraqiya television station quoted al-Maliki as saying.

On Tuesday, al-Maliki said that the army would withdraw from the cities in Anbar but would continue its manhunt for al-Qaida militants in the desert area of the western province.

Iraqi security forces on Wednesday clashed with gunmen who seized a police headquarters in the city of Fallujah and some police stations and checkpoints across Anbar, despite the withdrawal of soldiers from the cities in the western province, a police source said.

Dozens of gunmen and armed tribesmen attacked the compound of the police headquarters in Falljah, some 50 km west of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, and seized the building and weapons after a short clash with police force which withdrew to avoid fighting with them, a local police source told Xinhua.

Meanwhile, the gunmen attacked another police station in Golan district in Fallujah and seized the building after they killed police chief Major Muhannad al-Swidawi, the source said, adding that some gunmen also attacked al-Sejar checkpoint in northern Fallujah and seized it without any clash as the policemen left their weapons and fled the scene.

On Wednesday morning, fierce clashes also erupted in the town of Garma near Fallujah when dozens of gunmen attacked the police checkpoints and set ablaze at least three police vehicles, the source said.

More clashes broke out in several cities in Anbar province, including its capital city of Ramadi, some 110 km west of Baghdad, but there is no reports about casualties after the almost total collapse of security in the cities.

However, a source from the provincial Health Department told Xinhua that the Ramadi hospital has received 16 bodies of civilians and some 66 others for treatment during the past two days.

The clashes in Anbar entered the third day after tensions flared in the province on Monday when Iraqi police dismantled an anti-government protest site outside Ramadi.

Tension has been running high in the Sunni heartland of Anbar since the Iraqi security forces on Saturday captured the Sunni Arab tribal leader Ahmad al-Alwani and killed his brother. Al- Alwani is also a lawmaker in the Iraqi parliament.

The Sunnis have been carrying out a year-long protest, accusing the Shiite-led government of marginalizing them and its Shiite- dominated security forces of indiscriminately arresting, torturing and killing their sons.

Alwani is one of the outspoken leading figures in the anti- government protests. Some opponent lawmakers have been demanding to lift his immunity, but their demand was rejected by the parliament.

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