Baghdad, Jan 4: At least 75 Al Qaeda-linked militants, including one of their top leaders, were killed Friday in the clashes with Iraqi security forces and local tribesmen in western Iraq, police said.
Fifty-two militants were killed in Ramadi, Anbar’s provincial capital city, and 23 others were killed in the nearby areas of the city, which is about 100 km west of Baghdad, Xinhua quoted a police source as saying.
Among the dead was Abdul Rahman al-Baghdadi, one of the leaders of the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, commonly known as Al Qaeda in Iraq, the source said.
Clashes continued Friday in Ramadi and Fallujah, some 50 km west of Baghdad, as Iraqi forces and tribesmen were fighting the Al Qaeda militants who have been controlling some parts of the two cities.
Tensions flared in the province Monday when Iraqi police dismantled an anti-government protest site outside Ramadi. In order to defuse the situation and avoid fighting the tribesmen, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ordered the army to withdraw from the cities in Anbar.
On Wednesday, clashes erupted in several Anbar’s cities, including Ramadi and Fallujah, after Al Qaeda militants broke into the cities and attacked several police stations in the two cities, including the police headquarters in Fallujah just after the Iraqi army withdrew.
Late Wednesday night, al-Maliki said he changed his earlier decision to withdraw the army from riotous cities in Anbar province and would instead send reinforcements to the province where clashes continued.
“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 official Iraqiya television station quoted al-Maliki as saying.
Tension was already running high in the Sunni heartland of Anbar after the Iraqi security forces 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 marginalising 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 parliament.