Iraqi army launches Ramadi operation, imposes movement ban on city
Iraq soldiers have been deployed to counteract anti-government fighters in Ramadi (Azher Shallal/AFP)
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The Iraqi army launched a major operation Sunday on the crisis-hit city of Ramadi, which had been for weeks controlled by anti-government fighters.
Military spokesman Mohammed Al Askari told state television troops were backed by helicopter cover and imposed a ban on movement within the city.
A police lieutenant colonel in Ramadi city, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Agence France-Presse the operation had begun.
Sunni Muslim tribesmen backed by Iraqi troops had been fighting Al Qaeda-linked militants for control of Iraq's western province of Anbar in a critical test of strength for the Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki.
The deployment of tribesmen against the militants was made possible by a deal tribal leaders struck with the Baghdad government to try to counter Al Qaeda.
Parts of Ramadi and Fallujah, west of Baghdad, have been held by militants for days, harkening back to the years after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion when both cities in Anbar province were insurgent strongholds.
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