January 5, 2014
|Photo By STRINGER/IRAQ/Reuters :Gunmen fighters walk in the streets of the city of Falluja.|
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi troops trying to retake Anbar province from a mixture of Islamist and tribal foes battled al Qaeda fighters in Ramadi on Saturday after shelling the western region's other main city, Falluja, overnight, tribal leaders and officials said.
At least eight people were killed and 30 were wounded in Falluja, and residents of both cities said the fighting had limited their access to food, and that they were running low on generator fuel.
Shops were sending food to mosques, and people were being asked through loudspeakers to go to collect it.
Falluja has been held since Monday by Sunni Muslim militants linked to al Qaeda and tribal fighters united in their opposition to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, in a serious challenge to the authority of his Shi'ite-led government in Anbar province.
Al Qaeda's Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has been steadily tightening its grip in the Sunni-dominated desert province bordering Syria in recent months in a bid to create a Sunni Muslim state straddling the frontier.
But this week's seizure of territory in Ramadi and Falluja was the first time in years that Sunni insurgents had taken effective control of the region's most important cities and held their positions for days.
In Ramadi, tribesmen and the army have been working together to counter the al Qaeda insurgents.
However, in Falluja, ISIL's task has been made easier by tribesmen who have joined its fight against the government.