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

Pundits Split Over Long-Term US Role in Afghanistan

Security pact remains condition for American presence beyond 2014; deadline criticized More

US Eyes Islamic State Threat

Officials warn that IS could pose a threat to US homeland More

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Moscow says Russian troops crossed into Ukrainian territory by mistake More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocksi
X
George Putic
August 25, 2014 4:00 PM
How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that was eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports on how one band is bringing Yiddish tango to Los Angeles.
Video

Video Peace Returns to Ferguson as Community Tries to Heal

Thousands of people nationwide are expected to attend funeral services Monday in the U.S. Midwestern city of St. Louis, Missouri, for Michael Brown, the unarmed African-American teenager who was fatally shot by a white police officer August 9 in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. The shooting touched off days of violent demonstrations there, resulting in more than 100 arrests. VOA's Chris Simkins reports from Ferguson where the community is trying to move on after weeks of racial tension.
Video

Video Meeting in Minsk May Hinge on Putin Story

The presidents of Russia and Ukraine are expected to meet face-to-face Tuesday in Minsk, along with European leaders, for talks on the situation in Ukraine. Political analysts say the much welcomed dialogue could help bring an end to months of deadly clashes between pro-Russia separatists and Ukrainian forces in the country's southeast. But much depends on the actions of one man, Russian President Vladimir Putin. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Artists Shun Russia's Profanity Law

Russia in July enacted a law threatening fines for publicly displayed profanity in media, films, literature, music and theater. The restriction, the toughest since the Soviet era, aims to protect the Russian language and culture and has been welcomed by those who say cursing is getting out of control. But many artists reject the move as a patronizing and ineffective act of censorship in line with a string of conservative morality laws. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video British Fighters on Frontline of ISIS Information War

Security services are racing to identify the Islamic State militant who beheaded U.S. journalist James Foley in Syria. The murderer spoke English on camera with a British accent. It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for the Islamic State, also called ISIL or ISIS, alongside thousands of other foreign jihadists. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from the center of the investigation in London.

AppleAndroid