Iraq asks Anbar residents to 'take a stand'

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Iraq has called on the violence-hit Anbar Province's residents to "take a stand" against anti-government militants. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's comments came on Wednesday as parts of Anbar's capital Ramadi and all of the city of Fallujah, also in the province, are still in the hands of militants. "I ask the people of the province -- the tribes, the notables, and all who live there -- to be ready to take a stand, to take serious action against those dirty people, without making any sacrifices," Maliki said in his weekly televised address. He added, referring to Fallujah, "It is time to finish this subject, and end the presence of gangs in this city, and save the people from their evil." Iraqi government forces launched a military operation on Sunday in an attempt to retake the key neighborhoods of Ramadi. The violence in Anbar broke out on December 30, 2013, when the army removed an anti-government protest camp in Ramadi. Authorities said the camp was used as "headquarters for the leadership of al-Qaeda." The bloodshed later spread to Fallujah and militants moved in and seized the city and parts of Ramadi. Maleki has blamed "diabolical" and "treacherous" Arab countries for the recent rise in violence in his country, saying, "Iraq is the target for some countries that are backing terrorism, and backing evil."

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