Iraqi security forces killed 55 Al-Qaeda-linked fighters in two areas in Anbar province on Saturday, the commander of the country’s ground forces told AFP.
“Dozens of armed men were killed tonight in two security operations,” Staff General Ali Ghaidan Majeed said.
Near the city of Ramadi, “the first targeted groups from ISIL in Albufaraj, leading to the killing of 25,” he said, referring to the Al-Qaeda affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
And “a large gathering of ISIL members was targeted near Garma, killing 30,” Majeed added, referring to an area near the city of Fallujah.
Parts of Ramadi and Fallujah, west of Baghdad, have been held by militants for days, harkening back to the years after the 2003 US-led invasion when both cities were insurgent strongholds.
Fighting erupted in the Ramadi area Monday, when security forces removed the main anti-government protest camp set up after demonstrations erupted in late 2012 against what Sunni Arabs say is the marginalisation and targeting of their community.
It then spread to Fallujah, and security forces later withdrew from areas of both cities, leaving them open for ISIL to move in.
On Saturday, a senior security official in Anbar province said Fallujah was completely outside government control, and in ISIL’s hands.
Fighting between police and allied tribesmen on one side and ISIL militants on the other killed more than 100 people in Ramadi and Fallujah on Friday, security officials said.
It was the deadliest single day for Iraq in years.