Iraqi forces make major gains in Anbar province
Al-Qaeda militants were ousted from a strategic district in Anbar province (AFP)
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Security forces in Iraq have made major advances in mop-up operations against al-Qaeda-linked militants in the crisis-hit Anbar province.
According to the Iraqi Ministry of Defense on Wednesday, government forces recaptured the strategic district of Albu Ali Jasim in the north of Anbar.
The ministry also said that the Iraqi troops killed at least 17 militants in the city of Ramadi.
Iraqi troops backed by local Sunni tribesmen are fighting al-Qaeda-affiliated militants in the country’s western regions, including the Anbar Province.
Violence erupted in Anbar late last December when security forces cleared a protest camp. Iraqi authorities said the camp had been used as “headquarters for the leadership of al-Qaeda.”
The removal of the camp sparked protests from Iraqi lawmakers who urged the army to leave the city.
But the withdrawal of government forces from the city paved the way for al-Qaeda-linked militants from so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to move in and seize the provincial capital, Ramadi, and the neighboring city of Fallujah.
According to official figures, some 1,013 people were killed in January, making it the deadliest month in Iraq since April 2008.