Iraq forces launch massive operations in Anbar
Iraqi security forces and allied Sunni tribesmen have embarked on major offensives against al-Qaeda-linked militants in the western cities of Ramadi and Fallujah.
Iraqi soldiers, police and pro-government militias launched massive assaults on Saturday in the militant-held neighborhoods of Malaab, Dhubat, and Street 60 in Ramadi.
At least 35 militants were killed and large amounts of weaponry were seized in the clashes, which were among the heaviest in the past weeks.
Aerial bombardment and artillery fire on a neighborhood in northern Fallujah also killed 15 militants, according to the Iraqi Defense Ministry.
The operations come as part of efforts made by the Iraqi government to regain full control of the areas in the hands of militants.
The militants, who have been holding control of some areas in Ramadi Province for weeks, belong to the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and other militant groups.
Meanwhile, four people were killed in two separate bombing attacks that hit the capital Baghdad.
Another blast targeted an army patrol north of the city, leaving a soldier dead, while attacks in Tuz Khurmatu and Samarra killed three others.
Fighting erupted in the Ramadi area on December 30, when security forces cleared a protest camp which the government said was being used by militants for launching terrorist attacks.
The removal of the camp sparked protests from Iraqi lawmakers who urged the army to leave the city.
But the withdrawal of government forces from the city paved the way for ISIL militants to move in and seize the provincial capital and the neighboring city of Fallujah.
According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), over 140,000 people have left their homes amid raging clashes in Anbar Province.