The Iraqi government has released video of an airstrike, saying it killed more than 20 militants near the cities of Ramadi and Fallujah in Sunni-dominated Anbar province.
Iraqi military official Mohammed al-Askari told The Associated Press that Tuesday's airstrike targeted the al-Qaida operations center in the provincial capital of Ramadi. The strike comes as al-Qaida-linked militants tighten their grip on parts of Ramadi and Fallujah that they seized last week.
The government has warned of a possible assault on militants in Fallujah, prompting dozens of families to flee. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has urged Fallujah residents to "expel" the militants to preempt a military strike. Maliki, a Shi'ite whose government has little support in Sunni Fallujah, says he has ordered security forces not to strike residential areas.
Photos: Conflict in Anbar province
Also Tuesday, a truck laden with explosives blew up as it rammed into a police station in the Kirkuk district, killing two people and wounding at least 40 others.
On Sunday, at least 34 people died in Ramadi during fighting between Iraqi security forces and al-Qaida-linked Islamist fighters. Government forces followed up with an air strike on Ramadi.
The United States has reaffirmed its support for Iraq in its fight against the militants and said it will accelerate U.S. military sales and deliveries to the nation. But White House spokesman Jay Carney said while the U.S. will send more surveillance drones and Hellfire missiles to Iraq this year, Iraq must take the lead and handle the conflict itself.
U.S. General Ray Odierno, who led troops through some of the worst years of the Iraq war and is now Army Chief of Staff, said during a question-and-answer session in Washington Tuesday that he opposes sending U.S. combat troops back into Iraq in response to the recent gains by al-Qaida-linked militants, saying the proper U.S. approach is to stay engaged diplomatically to assist Iraqi leaders.
Odierno said he is disappointed by the loss of control in some of Iraq's key cities, but added that Iraq still has the potential to become a strong U.S. partner.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.