Iraq city falls into hands of al-Qaida

Associated Press Published:

BAGHDAD -- The city center of Iraq's Fallujah has fallen completely into the hands of fighters from the al-Qaida-linked Islamic State in Iraq and Levant.

Hadi Razeij, head of the Anbar province police force, said police had left the city center entirely and had positioned themselves on the edge of town.

"The walls of the city are in the hands of the police force, but the people of Fallujah are the prisoners of ISIL," he said, speaking on Arabic language satellite broadcaster al-Arabiya.

Fallujah, along with nearby provincial capital Ramadi, was a stronghold of Sunni insurgents during the U.S.-led war. Al-Qaida militants largely took both cities over last week and have been fending off incursions by government forces there since.

The U.S. State Department expressed its concern in a statement, saying it would continue to work with Iraqi authorities and tribes allied against ISIL "to defeat our common enemy."

"We are also in contact with tribal leaders from Anbar province who are showing great courage as they fight to eject these terrorist groups from their cities," Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf said.

In a speech in Baghdad, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said government forces would press on to clear the province of militants.

"There will be no retreat until we eliminate this gang and rid the people of Anbar of their evil acts," he said. "The people of Anbar asked the government for help, they called us to come to rescue them from terrorists."

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