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Iraqi Army Shells Fallujah In Fight Against Al-Qaeda Rebels

Islamist fighters walk the streets of Fallujah on January 3, after taking control of much of the western Iraqi city.
Iraqi security forces and Sunni tribesmen continue to fight Al-Qaeda militants in the central cities of Ramadi and Fallujah.

A correspondent for RFE/RL in Ramadi said on January 4 that about 60 percent of Fallujah was under the control of Al-Qaeda and antigovernment insurgents.

The Al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) had taken control of the Iraqi Army's 1st Division headquarters as well as the Baghdad-Ramadi highway.

The Iraqi Army shelled the city with mortars in an effort to root out the ISIS militants, leaving eight people dead and 30 wounded.

In Ramadi, fighting left scores dead on January 3 as police and Sunni tribesmen solidified control over the city.

RFE/RL's correspondent in Ramadi said the city was "relatively calm. Local police and traffic police have reappeared in some residential areas. People have come out for shopping. Many shops have reopened today."

READ MORE: What's Behind The Fighting In Iraq?

Washington has condemned "in the absolute strongest terms" the violence in Ramadi and Fallujah, the main cities of the western Anbar Province.

"But let's be clear who is responsible for the violence; it's the terrorists who are behind it," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters in Washington on January 3.

"That's why we're partnering with the Iraqi government, very closely, to fight this shared threat because at the end of the day, we can certainly helped them fight it, but we also want to help them build their own capability to do so themselves because ultimately that's the best way forward for Iraq," she added.

The Shi'ite-led government ordered the army to pull out of Ramadi and Fallujah this week, after Sunni tribesmen said they were ready to join police in the battle against Al-Qaeda militants.

Friday Prayers were held at Ramadi's Grand Mosque, where Mufti Adnan Mishawy urged worshippers to support government forces.

Fighting between Iraqi security forces and the Al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State in Iraq and Levant broke out on December 30 when a Sunni protest camp in Ramadi was dismantled by government forces.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki had vowed to shut down the camp, which had been set up more than one year ago. He said it had gone from a place of peaceful protest to a headquarters for Al-Qaeda forces.

With reporting by AP