Al Qaeda militants take control of Iraq's Fallujah, country death toll recorded at highest level in 5 years
At least 13 people have been killed over the past few days since Iraq's leadership deployed troops to Anbar to dismantle the Sunni Arab protest camp (AFP)
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Officials told AFP that "Half of Fallujah is in the hands of ISIL (the Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) group, and the other half is in the control of [armed tribesmen]," the official said.
The siege follows Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki's decision to "dismantle" the Sunni Arab protest site in Ramadi earlier this week, suggesting that the camp has been transformed into an "Al Qaeda headquarters."
At least 13 people have been killed since troops were deployed to the camp to dismantle it and clashes have spread several towns across Anbar province in the process.
In related news from Iraq, the United Nations reported this week that at least 7,818 civilians and 1,050 security force members were killed in violent attacks throughout the country in 2013. The death toll represents that highest annual death rate in Iraq in the past five years, according to BBC. The country has not seen such levels since the height of its sectarian conflict in 2006 and 2007.
Upon the announcement of the 2013 death toll, the UN head of mission in Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, said: "This is a sad and terrible record which confirms once again the urgent need for the Iraqi authorities to address the roots of violence to curb this infernal circle."