Intense fighting in Iraq, but Kerry says no U.S. troops will be sent

  • Article by: QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA and SINAN SALAHEDDIN , Associated Press
  • Updated: January 5, 2014 - 10:03 PM

Secretary of State John Kerry said that the Obama administration is “very, very concerned” about intense fighting in Iraq that killed at least 34 people on Sunday, but U.S. troops will not be sent there.

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Insurgents controlled much of Fallujah on Sunday.

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Secretary of State John Kerry said that the Obama administration is “very, very concerned” about intense fighting in Iraq that killed at least 34 people on Sunday, but U.S. troops will not be sent here.

Kerry said Al-Qaida-linked militants are trying to destabilize the region and undermine a democratic process in Iraq, and that the United States is in contact with tribal leaders in Anbar province who are confronting the terrorists.

But, he said, “this is a fight that belongs to the Iraqis. That is exactly what the president and the world decided some time ago when we left Iraq, so we are not obviously contemplating returning. We are not contemplating putting boots on the ground.”

The Iraqi military tried to dislodge Al-Qaida militants in Sunni-dominated Anbar province on Sunday, unleashing airstrikes and besieging the regional capital in fighting as a series of bombs in Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad caused more bloodshed.

Security forces made progress in heavy fighting in Ramadi, reclaiming parts of the city. But insurgents seemed to maintain control of much of Fallujah.

Al-Qaida hideouts bombed

Recent gains by the insurgents have been a blow to the Shiite-led government as sectarian violence has escalated since the U.S. withdrawal.

Video of the airstrikes in Anbar — apparently taken by aircraft at night — was released by Iraq’s Defense Ministry showing Al-Qaida hideouts being bombarded.

It showed men gathered around a vehicle, then running away as the site was struck.

A ministry statement said the air force struck a militants’ hideout overnight and identified them as members of the Al-Qaida-linked Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

The army and allied tribesmen also fought Al-Qaida militants around the provincial capital of Ramadi on Sunday, two Anbar government officials said.

They said 22 soldiers and 12 civilians were killed, along with an unknown number of militants, and 58 people were wounded.

Clans inside the city of Fallujah have started to form brigades, they said, and some of the factions who fought the Americans following the U.S.-led invasion a decade ago say they do not want the Iraqi army to enter the city.

Government troops, backed by Sunni tribesmen who oppose Al-Qaida, have encircled Fallujah for several days, and have entered parts of Ramadi. On Friday, troops bombarded militant positions outside Fallujah with artillery, a military official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The deadliest attack Sunday in Baghdad took place in the northern Shiite Shaab neighborhood, where two car bombs exploded simultaneously near a restaurant and a tea house. Officials say those blasts killed 10 people and wounded 26.

Authorities said a car bomb ripped through the capital’s eastern Shiite district of Sadr City, killing five and wounding 10. Another bombing killed three civilians and wounded six in the central Bab al-Muadham neighborhood, officials said. Two other bombings killed two civilians and wounded 13, police said.

Clashes have been taking place since Monday in Ramadi and nearby Fallujah, and the Baghdad bombings could be an attempt by militants to distract security forces.

Military needs more time

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