RAMADI, Iraq: Gunmen held crucial territory on Baghdad’s doorstep Saturday despite tribesmen and police retaking militant-held areas west of the capital, as the UN Security Council backed Iraq’s efforts against Al-Qaeda-linked extremists. Battles in Anbar provincial capital Ramadi saw Al-Qaeda-linked fighters cede control of two neighborhoods, but the former insurgent bastion of Fallujah, where US forces fought some of their bloodiest battles since the Vietnam War, remained in militant hands. The United Nations and NGOs have said civilians lack access to essential supplies such as food and fuel because of the crisis, while Washington has piled pressure on Baghdad to focus on political reconciliation, in addition to ongoing military operations. Gunmen seized all of Fallujah, just 60 kilometers (37 miles) from Baghdad, and parts of Ramadi last week, the first time militants have exercised such open control in major cities since the insurgency that followed the 2003 US-led invasion. Both cities lie in Anbar province, a sprawling desert region in west Iraq bordering Syria where US and Iraqi officials have warned for months that jihadists have been able to establish training camps and rear bases.
On Friday, tribesmen and local police retook the Malaab and Fursan areas of Ramadi from Al-Qaeda-linked militants, tribal military commander Mohammed Khamis Abu Risha told Agence France-Presse.