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
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

800-Pound Man Determined to Slim Down

Man says he was kicked out of hospital for ordering pizza; wants to be an actor More

Australia Prepares to Resettle 12,000 Syrian Refugees

Preference will be given to refugees from persecuted minorities, and the first group is expected to arrive before late December More

S. African Miners Seek Class Action Suit Against Gold Mines

The estimated 100,000 say say they contracted the lung diseases silicosis and tuberculosis in the mines More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs