Iraqi special forces have launched attacks on militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), an Al-Qaeda-linked group that claims it seized control of half of the city of Fallujah and parts of Ramadi earlier in the week.
ISIL reportedly captured several police stations, took weapons and freed prisoners, according to a senior police officer.
An interior ministry official told AFP that ISIL controlled half of Fallujah and said the situation was similar in Ramadi.
The violence in the volatile Anbar province was sparked Monday when Iraqi security forces took down a Sunni Arab protest camp in Ramadi. Ten people were reported killed. The move on the camp came after Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shia, said the camp was “a headquarters for the leadership of al-Qaeda."
Adding to the unrest was the arrest over the weekend of a Sunni parliament member, which furthered the belief among Sunnis that the Shia majority government was marginalizing them.
2013 was the deadliest year in Iraq since 2008, according to the United Nations, with some 7,818 civilians and 1,050 members of the security forces killed in unrest.