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Iraq: Violence continues as Maliki pledges to fight Al-Qaeda - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Gunmen gesture during fighting in Ramadi January 1, 2014 (REUTERS/Stringer)

Gunmen gesture during fighting in Ramadi January 1, 2014 (REUTERS/Stringer)

Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat—Several police stations in the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi in Iraq’s western Anbar province came under attack by unknown gunmen on Wednesday, as the Iraqi Premier Nouri Al-Maliki pledged to continue the war against Al-Qaeda fighters in Anbar’s desert.

No casualties were reported in the new flare-up of violence, which comes days after the dispersal of a longstanding anti-government sit-in in the province.

MP Khalid Al-Alwani, a member of the Mutahidoun Coalition, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the situation in Anbar was “going from bad to worse, particularly in Fallujah where gunmen have so far taken control of five police stations after police officers laid down their arms and left.”

When asked whether if it was the work of Al-Qaeda or local tribes, Alwani said: “The picture is not clear so far and we do not know exactly their identity.”

No individual or group has claimed responsibility for any of the attacks.

Meanwhile, in another sign of the growing insurgency against the government, unknown gunmen set four police stations on fire in the city of Ramadi, 70 miles west of Baghdad, Agence France-Presse reported.

The attacks come days after Sheikhs Rafeh Al-Rifai and Abdel Al-Malik Al-Saadi, Iraq’s two leading Sunni clerics, issued fatwas banning attacks on police and army personnel.

However, Alwani said no one could guarantee everyone would “comply with these fatwas.”

In his weekly televised speech, Maliki on Wednesday pledged to pursue Islamist militias in the desert of Anbar, stressing his refusal to hold any negotiations with “politicians who created the crisis.”

“The war will continue in Anbar to rescue the residents from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other terrorist groups,” Maliki said, accusing unidentified political sides of “adopting sectarian agendas.”

Maliki’s speech came two days after Iraqi military stormed a mostly Sunni anti-government protest in Anbar, a step the premier described as “too late.”

Speaking exclusively to Asharq Al-Awsat, Iraqi MP Hamid Al-Mutlaq of the Iraqiya List said, in reference to the dispersal of the Anbar sit-in: “The policy adopted by Maliki of involving the military in a domestic issue is wrong, and may lead to more negative, if not catastrophic, results.”

He added: “When the military went to fight militants in the desert of Anbar, everyone sided with it.”

However, Mutlaq said the prime minister’s decision to “transfer the war [on terror] to the protest squares has complicated things further.”

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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