Parts of Ramadi and Fallujah, west of Baghdad, have been held by militants for days.

Fighting began in Ramadi area on Monday, when security forces removed the main anti-government protest camp set up after demonstrations broke out in late 2012 against what Sunni Arabs say is the marginalisation and targeting of their community.

Anger at the Shiite-led government among the Sunni minority is seen as one of the main drivers of the worst violence to hit Iraq in five years.

Police and tribesmen fought in Ramadi and Fallujah on Friday against militants from al-Qaeda-linked group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which operates in Iraq and Syria, security officials said.

At least 32 civilians and 71 ISIL fighters died in the clashes, the officials said, adding that they did not know how many police and tribesmen were killed.
Hundreds of gunmen, some of them carrying the black flags often flown by jihadists, gathered at outdoor weekly Muslim prayers in central Fallujah, a witness said.

At least 14 people were killed on Monday and Tuesday in and near Ramadi, while the tolls from the following two days were not immediately clear.
Fallujah was the target of two major assaults after the 2003 US-led invasion, in which American forces saw some of their heaviest fighting since the Vietnam War.

American troops fought for years, aided by Sunni tribesmen in the Sahwa militia forces from late 2006, to wrest control of Anbar from militants.
During their time in Iraq, US forces reportedly suffered almost one-third of their total fatalities in Anbar.

But two years after US forces withdrew from Iraq; the power of militants in the province is again on the rise.

Clashes erupted in the Ramadi area on Monday as security forces tore down the sprawling anti-government protest camp on a nearby highway.
The violence then spread to Fallujah, and a subsequent withdrawal of security forces from areas of both cities cleared the way for ISIL to move in.

(Agencies)

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