ISIL urges Iraqi Sunnis to keep fighting

A militant group has called on Iraqi Sunnis who have seized one city and part of another to keep battling government forces, as fighting and attacks left 56 people dead.

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Parts of Anbar provincial capital Ramadi west of Baghdad and all of Fallujah have been outside government control since last week.

It is the first time militants have exercised such open control in major cities since the height of the insurgency that followed the 2003 US-led invasion.

“Oh Sunni people, you were forced to take up the weapon,” Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, spokesman for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), said in an audio recording released on Tuesday.

“Do not lay the weapon down, because if you put it down this time, the (Shi’ites) will enslave you and you will not rise again,” he urged Iraqi Sunnis, referring to the Shi’ite-led government in Baghdad.

Earlier, defence ministry spokesman Staff Lieutenant General Mohammed al-Askari said soldiers deployed near Fallujah would hold off on assaulting the city for now.

“It is not possible to assault (Fallujah) now” over concerns about civilian casualties, Askari said.

Attacking the Sunni-majority city would also be extremely politically sensitive, as it would inflame already high tensions between the Sunni Arab minority and the government.

And it would be a major test for Iraqi security forces, which have yet to undertake such an operation without the backing of US troops.

Overnight, security forces and allied tribesmen sought to retake south Ramadi from ISIL, but the assault failed after seven hours of fighting, a police captain said.

Four civilians were killed and 14 wounded, said Ramadi hospital’s Dr Ahmed Abdul Salam, who had no casualty figures for security forces or militants.

Later on Tuesday, missile strikes in Ramadi killed 25 militants, Askari said.

Meanwhile, the army deployed reinforcements including tanks to an area about 15 kilometres east of Fallujah, police said.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has called on Fallujah residents and tribes to expel ISIL to stave off a military offensive.

But senior tribal leader Sheikh Ali al-Hammad said on Monday that ISIL had left Fallujah, which was now held by tribesmen.

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