Iraq violence displaces 300,000 from Anbar province
Iraqi soldiers gather around the bodies of anti-government fighters, affiliated to al-Qaeda Islamist organization, who were killed during a military operation against them on February 9, 2014, in the city of Ramadi. (AFP)
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Violence and bloodshed in Iraq's Anbar province, where large amounts of area under militant control, has made some 300,000 citizens be displaced from their homes in the last six weeks, the United Nations said Wednesday.
Since the end of 2013, Anbar province has been hit with the worst bout of fighting between government and opposition forces since 2008.
"Over the last six weeks up to 300,000 Iraqis -- some 50,000 families -- have been displaced due to insecurity around Fallujah and Ramadi" in Anbar, a UN refugee agency statement released on Tuesday said, Agence France Presse reported.
"Most of the displaced have fled to outlying communities in Anbar province to escape the fighting, while 60,000 persons have fled to more distant provinces," according to the statement summarizing remarks by spokeswoman Melissa Fleming in Geneva, AFP said.
The 300,000 displaced citizens of Anbar join the ranks of their 1.1 million fellow countrymen who have fled sporadic outbursts of violence in Iraq and still not returned home, according to AFP.
Last month, the U.N. reported that the number of people who had been displaced by the violence in Anbar was already the highest since the ferocious sectarian bloodshed of 2006-2008.
This round of Anbar violence broke out in late December after state security forces dismantled a major Sunni anti-government protest camp near the city of Ramadi following clashes, AFP reported.
In response, anti-state fighters seized large swathes of provincial capital Ramadi and all of Fallujah to its west. Fallujah, a bastion of anti-U.S. Sunni fighters following 2003's invasion, was home to some of the heaviest fighting between American and Iraqi forces during the Iraq war. It is a short drive to Baghdad from Fallujah.
The Ramadi-takeover was the first time that anti-government forces have gained such solid and open control of an Iraqi province since immediately after the 2003 invasion.
According to AFP, Anbar's Govenor Ahmed Al Dulaimi made a statement at the weekend giving Fallujah's fighters a week to surrender, but added that the government authorities would not negotatiate with the jihadists fighting in the conflict.