Clashes continue in Iraq's Anbar

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Iraqi security forces on Wednesday clashed with gunmen who seized a police headquarters in the city of Fallujah and some police stations and checkpoints across Anbar, despite the withdrawal of soldiers from the cities in the Iraqi western province, a police source said.

Dozens of gunmen and armed tribesmen attacked the compound of the police headquarters in the city of Falljah, some 50 km west of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, and seized the building and weapons after a short clash with police force which withdrew to avoid fighting them, a local police source told Xinhua.

Meanwhile, the gunmen attacked another police station in Golan district in Fallujah and seized the building after they killed police chief Major Muhannad al-Swidawi, the source said, adding that some gunmen also attacked al-Sejar checkpoint in northern Fallujah and seized it without any clash as the policemen left their weapons and fled the scene.

On Wednesday morning, fierce clashes erupted in the town of Garma near Fallujah when dozens of gunmen attacked the police checkpoints and set ablaze at least three police vehicles, the source said.

More clashes broke out in several cities in Anbar province, including its capital city of Ramadi, some 110 km west of Baghdad, but there is no reports about casualties after the almost total collapse of security in the cities.

However, a source from the provincial Health Department told Xinhua that the Ramadi hospital has received 16 bodies of civilians and some 66 others for treatment during the past two days.

The clashes in Anbar entered the third day despite the government's move to withdraw the army from the cities and to lift the curfew imposed on the province since Saturday, when tensions flared in the province following the capture of a Sunni tribal leader and a security force operation to dismantle a sit-in camp of Sunnis near Ramadi.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said that the army will withdraw from the cities in Anbar but will continue its manhunt for al-Qaida militants in the desert area of the western province.

The Sunnis have been carrying out a year-long protest, accusing the Shiite-led government of marginalizing them and its Shiite- dominated security forces of indiscriminately arresting, torturing and killing their sons. 

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