Iraq to send army to turbulent Anbar province

Baghdad, Jan 2: Changing its earlier decision of army’s withdrawal from riotous cities in Anbar province, the Iraqi government Wednesday that he will 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, reported Xinhua citing Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki.

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

On Wednesday, Iraqi security forces 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 from Baghdad. They seized the building and weapons after a short clash with police force which withdrew to avoid fighting with them.

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.

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, the source added.

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 for treatment during the past two days.

IANS