Jan 6, 2014
Iraqi air force strikes city to try to oust al Qaeda
Iraqi government forces battling an al Qaeda offensive near the Syrian border launched an air strike on Ramadi city on Sunday killing 25 Islamist militants, according to local officials.
Government officials in western Anbar province met tribal leaders to urge them to help repel al Qaeda-linked militants who have taken over parts of Ramadi and Falluja, strategic Iraqi cities on the Euphrates River.
Al Qaeda's Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has been steadily tightening its grip in the vast Anbar province in recent months in a bid to create a Sunni Muslim state straddling the frontier with Syria.
But last week's capture of positions in Ramadi and large parts of Falluja was the first time in years that Sunni insurgents had taken ground in the province's major cities and held their positions for days.
Local officials and tribal leaders in Ramadi said that 25 suspected militants were killed in the air force strike, which targeted eastern areas of the city early on Sunday.
In Falluja, ISIL's task has been made easier by disgruntled tribesmen who have joined its fight against the government.
In Iraq, al Qaeda fighters had been controlling large parts of the desert in western Iraq along the Syrian border but have been driven back by a military campaign in recent days aimed at preventing them taking land.
In Ramadi, where tribesmen and the army have been working together to counter the al Qaeda insurgents, ISIL snipers positioned themselves on rooftops and fought small battles in the city.
ISIL fighters held on to their positions in the outskirts of Fallujah and have used police and government vehicles inside the city for patrols, some flying a black flag associated with al Qaeda from the vehicles.