News / Middle East

Iraqi Air Force Strikes City to Try to Oust al-Qaida

A burned police vehicle left in the main street of Fallujah after clashes between Iraqi security forces and al-Qaeda fighters in Fallujah, 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Baghdad, Jan. 5, 2014
A burned police vehicle left in the main street of Fallujah after clashes between Iraqi security forces and al-Qaeda fighters in Fallujah, 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Baghdad, Jan. 5, 2014
Reuters
Iraqi government forces battling an al-Qaida 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-Qaida-linked militants who have taken over parts of Ramadi and Falluja, strategic Iraqi cities on the Euphrates River.

Al-Qaida'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.

“As a local government we are doing our best to avoid sending the army to Falluja... now we are negotiating outside the city with the tribes to decide how to enter the city without allowing the army to be involved,” said Falih Eisa, a member of Anbar's provincial council.

One option being considered to oust al-Qaida from Falluja would be for army units and tribal fighters to form a “belt” around the city, isolating it and cutting supply routes for militants, military and local officials said.

They would also urge residents to leave the city.

“The siege could take days, we are betting on the time to give people a chance to leave the city, weaken the militants and exhaust them,” a senior military officer who declined to be named said.

Tension has been running high across Anbar - which borders Syria and was the heart of Iraq's Sunni insurgency after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion - since Iraqi police broke up a Sunni protest last week, resulting in deadly clashes.

Tribal leaders hesistant

Talks between government officials and tribes made little headway on Sunday, with some tribal leaders hesitant to negotiate at all and others afraid of opposing al-Qaida, which has carried out numerous bombings and assassinations in Iraq.

“The militants told people in Falluja that they won't harm them and they are there in Falluja to exclusively fight the army, so this is the deal between the leaders in Falluja and the militants,” a Sunni official involved in the negotiations in Anbar said.

Further west, across the porous border in Syria, al-Qaida fighters have captured swaths of land in the north and are battling with other Islamist brigades as well as the Syrian army.

The relationship between the fighters in Iraq and Syria is unclear, even though they refer to themselves as coming from the same group. Baghdad has said al-Qaida fighters from Syria are crossing into Iraq and have helped drive violence there to its worst levels in five years.

In Iraq, al-Qaida 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-Qaida 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-Qaida from the vehicles.

A tribal leader involved in negotiations in Falluja said the number of ISIL fighters in the outskirts of the city was insignificant and that fighting them might make matters worse.

“There is no reason to fight them and threaten the unity of the Sunni people. We believe that those who decide to fight alongside the government are wrong,” he said.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid