The Iraqi army shelled the western city of Falluja with mortar bombs overnight to try to wrest back control from militants, killing at least eight people, tribal leaders and officials said on Saturday, according to Reuters.
Al-Qaeda-linked fighters took control of the Iraqi city of Fallujah following a bloody battle with security forces in which more than 100 people were killed. The insurgents have announced the creation of an Islamic state in Fallujah, AFP reported.
Government troops with the help from the local allied tribesmen carried out an assault in Fallujah, firing heavy artillery rounds at a location where up to 150 Qaeda-linked fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) were positioned, an anonymous military official told AP, adding that troops also advanced into the city of Ramadi.
At least 32 civilians and 71 ISIL fighters died as the results of clashes, officials told AFP, adding that they did not know how many police and tribesmen were killed.
Falluja has been held since Monday by militants linked to al Qaeda who are opposed to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, in a serious challenge to the authority of his government in Anbar province.
Medical sources in Falluja said another 30 people were wounded in shelling by the army.
Al-Qaeda's Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has been tightening its grip in the Sunni-dominated desert province, near the Syrian border, in recent months in a bid to create an Islamic state across the Iraqi-Syrian borders.
In Ramadi, the other main city in Anbar, tribesmen and the army have worked together to counter al-Qaeda militants seeking to take control.
But in Falluja, ISIL's task has been made easier by the cooperation of tribesmen, who have joined forces with it against the government.
Tension has been running high in Anbar - once the heart of Iraq's insurgency after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion - since Iraqi police broke up a protest camp on Monday. At least 13 people were killed in those clashes.
The escalating tension shows the civil war in Syria, where terrorists are battling President Bashar al-Assad, is spilling over to other countries like Iraq threatening its delicate sectarian balance.
Officials and witnesses in Falluja said the northern and eastern parts of the city were under the control of militants after residents fled the neighborhoods to take refuge from the army shelling.
Militants have deployed snipers on top of the empty houses and government buildings to prevent the army from entering the city.
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