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Iraq: Army advances as Al-Qaeda militants open new fronts - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Iraqi security forces members enter a compound during clashes with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria in the city of Ramadi on February 16, 2014. (REUTERS/Stringer)

Iraqi security forces members enter a compound during clashes with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria in the city of Ramadi on February 16, 2014. (REUTERS/Stringer)

Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat—Violence in the disputed Iraqi governorate of Anbar picked up again on Friday as Iraqi forces continued to advance into Al-Qaeda-held areas.

Violent clashes between Iraqi troops and militants affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) erupted in eastern Ramadi, 62 miles (100 kilometers) east of Baghdad, on Friday, according to local security sources speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.

Also on Friday, a suicide car bomber killed at least 3 civilians and injured a further 17 in the Sunni-majority city of Ramadi, according to local police.

But a member of the Anbar Governorate Council speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Adhal Al-Fahdawi, said that the Iraqi forces have only “seemingly liberated these areas.”

“No sooner do the army forces pull out of the liberated areas than militants return,” he said. “Another problem has emerged as well: When militants are pushed out of a certain area, they open a new front in another area, causing damages to peoples’ lives and to infrastructure.”

Fahdawi said there is an “urgent need for the Iraqi forces to hold the liberated territory,” which he hopes will be possible “once the tribal emergency forces are completely set up.”

The Anbar councilor also said that militants had taken over a police station in eastern Ramadi on Friday, setting it on fire before opening new fronts in Ramadi’s Bu Ali, Jassem and Al-Jazzira districts.

As the crisis Anbar enters its third month, the Iraqi government has rejected a ceasefire initiative organized by senior clerics and local tribal chiefs from Fallujah, in Anbar governorate. The ceasefire proposal was aimed at isolating ISIS militants from the rest of the city’s residents.

Fahdawi expressed regret over “the government’s rejection of the initiative, which does not contradict the Prime Minister’s initiative that has been partially put into effect.”

Meanwhile, the Dijla Operations Command, a government unit established by Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki to eradicate terrorism from the Diyala, Kirkuk and Salaheddin governorates, announced that the Suleiman Bek district of Tuz Khormato, 55 miles (90 kilometers) north of Baghdad, had been liberated from ISIS fighters.

The head of the Dijla Operations Command, Field Marshal Abdul-Amir Al-Zaydi, said in a statement that “Dijla Operations military units have resolved the battle with ISIS in the Suleiman Bek district, killing 48 fighters and arresting 37 others.”

Zaydi called on displaced families to “return to their homes to lead their normal lives.”