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Iraqi Forces Battle Pro-al-Qaida Militants

  • VOA News

Sunni Muslim fighters watch as a police vehicle burns during clashes in Ramadi, Iraq, Jan. 2, 2014.
There was heavy fighting Thursday between Iraqi forces and al-Qaida-linked militants who have seized control of parts of two major cities.

The government used rockets against militants in Falluja and Ramadi. Casualty numbers are unclear.

Fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant stormed parts of Fallujah and Ramadi on Wednesday, barging into police stations, taking over military posts, and freeing prisoners.

The pro-Sunni extremists are taking advantage of the ongoing violence and tension between Iraq's Shi'ite-led government and the Sunni minority.

The Sunnis accuse the government of discrimination and ignoring their needs. Ethnic violence killed thousands throughout much of 2013.

Also Thursday, separate bombings in Baghdad and elsewhere killed at least 24 people, including a number of soldiers.

The original version of this item contained an incorrect reference to the Iraqi government having used fighter jets in their offensive. VOA regrets the error.