Qaeda tightens Fallujah grip; bombs kill 21

January 21, 2014 - 7:50:43 am

People look at the site of a car bomb attack in Baghdad yesterday.

 

BAGHDAD: Al Qaeda-linked militants tightened their grip on Fallujah, a city on Baghdad’s doorstep that has been outside of government control for weeks, as bombings in the capital killed 21 people yesterday.

The latest violence came as security forces pressed a massive assault on anti-government fighters in Ramadi, another predominantly Sunni Arab city where swathes of territory have been outside of the authorities’ control.

And a top official warned that militants had enough weaponry to “occupy Baghdad”.

Diplomats have urged Iraq to pursue political reconciliation in order to undercut support for militants, but Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki and others have taken a hard line and trumpeted security operations.

After days of tense calm in Fallujah, a former insurgent bastion a short drive from Baghdad, tribal chiefs and witnesses said Al Qaeda-linked militants were increasingly exerting their authority in the city on Monday.

Fighters affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) had set up an Islamic court, kidnapped senior officials including a top police officer and several tribal sheikhs, and broadcast calls over mosque loudspeakers for others to join them in the fight against Iraqi security forces.

“Daash does not accept anything that we decide,” said one tribal sheikh, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of being targeted by militants, referring to ISIL by its commonly-used Arabic acronym. “They want everybody to work under their command, under their regime.”

Another resident of the city, who gave his name as Abu Osama, said militants had imposed strict codes in some neighbourhoods, including barring women from visiting local markets and men from wearing Western clothes or shaving their beards.

Security forces continued to mount major operations against militants in Ramadi and rural areas between the two cities, but the clashes and unrest caused several casualties.

A bombing near Ramadi targeting a group of policemen and media going to ceremonially reopen a police station yesterday killed three people — two policemen and a journalist — and wounded three others, including another reporter.AFP

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