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Tribal leaders, Iraqi government demand militants leave Fallujah as humanitarian fears grow

Wednesday - 1/8/2014, 10:00pm  ET

BAGHDAD (AP) -- Tribal leaders in the besieged Iraqi city of Fallujah (fuh-LOO'-juh) are warning al-Qaida-linked fighters to leave to avoid a military showdown.

Sectarian tensions have been on the rise for months in Sunni-dominated Anbar province as minority Sunnis protested what they perceive as discrimination and random arrests by the Shiite-led government.

But last week, Al-Qaida-linked gunmen seized control of Fallujah and the provincial capital of Ramadi. The militants overran police stations and military posts, freed prisoners and set up their own checkpoints.

Iraq's government responded by deploying additional troops and military equipment to Anbar and has been carrying out airstrikes in an effort to dislodge the militants.

In a televised address, Iraq's prime minister called the fight against al-Qaida a "sacred war," but also hinted of a possible pardon for militants who abandon the fight.

The United Nations and the Red Cross are warning of mounting humanitarian concerns in Fallujah and nearby areas as food and water supplies start to run out.

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APPHOTO GFX1034: Graphic provides an update on violence in Iraq; (8 Jan 2014)


APPHOTO CAI130: FILE - In this January 5, 2014, file photo, gunmen patrol during clashes with Iraqi security forces in Fallujah, 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Baghdad, Iraq. With a new label - the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant - the global terror network al-Qaida is positioning itself as a vanguard defending a persecuted Sunni community against Shiite-dominated governments across Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. The al-Qaida gains pose the most serious challenge to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Shiite-led government since the departure of American forces in late 2011. (AP Photo, File) (8 Jan 2014)

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