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Major Iraq city falls to Qaeda-linked militants

05 January, 2014

FALLUJAH: The Iraqi government has lost control of Fallujah to al Qaeda-linked militants, a senior security official said Saturday, after days of fighting sparked by an anti-government protest camp's removal.

Parts of the cities of Ramadi and Fallujah, west of Baghdad, have been held by militants for days, harkening back to the years after the 2003 US-led invasion when both were insurgent strongholds.

Fighting erupted in the Ramadi area Monday, when security forces removed the main anti-government protest camp set up after demonstrations broke out in late 2012 against what Sunni Arabs say is the marginalisation and targeting of their community. Anger at the Shiite-led government among the Sunni minority is seen as one of the main drivers of the worst violence to hit Iraq in five years.

"Fallujah is under the control of ISIL," a senior security official in Anbar province told AFP, referring to al Qaeda-linked group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. However, the city's outskirts were in the hands of local police, the official added.

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