Iraqi PM Maliki orders army to leave Anbar province in bid to restore calm
Military officers carry the coffin of a comrade during his funeral in the city of Nasiriyah, on December 31, 2013, after he was killed in fighting in the western Anbar province. (AFP)
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Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki on Tuesday said the army will leave cities in Anbar province, in a bid to defuse tensions after security forces closed a major Sunni anti-government protest camp in the area.
Maliki called on “the armed forces to devote themselves to... pursuing al-Qaeda hideouts in the desert of Anbar [province]” and for the army to turn over “the administration of the cities to the hand of the local and federal police,” according to a statement on his website.
The announcement was made after clashes between security forces and gunmen killed four more people in the Anbar province town of Ramadi, police and a doctor told Agence France-Presse.
Three gunmen and an Iraqi army sniper were killed, while three other militants were wounded, the sources said, bringing the death toll from clashes set off by the closure of the camp to 14.
As the camp was demolished, heavy clashes broke out in the Ramadi area, with 10 gunmen killed as some mosques exhorted followers to “go to jihad,” or holy war, AFP reported.
Sunni Arab demonstrators had gathered in the camp for more than a year.
Late on Monday, 44 MPs announced that they had submitted their resignations, calling for “the withdrawal of the army... and the release of MP Ahmed al-Alwani,” who was arrested in Ramadi on Saturday.
The raid on Alwani’s house sparked clashes that killed his brother, five guards, and a security forces member, AFP reported.
Violence in Iraq has reached a level not seen since 2008, when the country was just emerging from a period of brutal sectarian killings.
More than 6,800 people have been killed in Iraq violence since the beginning of the year, according to AFP figures based on security and medical sources.
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