BAGHDAD (AP) — Officials in Iraq say at least 34 people have been killed today in fighting between the Iraqi military and al-Qaida militants.
Iraqi forces are trying to dislodge militants from al-Qaida's Iraqi branch who have taken over two key cities Iraq's Sunni-dominated Anbar province. Clashes have been taking place since Monday in Anbar's provincial capital, Ramadi, and nearby Fallujah.
The recent gains by the insurgents have been a blow to the Shiite-led government.
Iraq's Defense Ministry says air strikes bombarded militant hideouts overnight.
Two Anbar government officials tell The Associated Press that the army and allied tribesmen also fought al-Qaida militants around the provincial capital of Ramadi today. The officials say 22 soldiers and 12 civilians were killed, along with an unknown number of militants, and 58 people were wounded. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters.
Meanwhile, in Baghdad, officials say a series of bombs in Shiite neighborhoods killed at least 20 people today.
Sectarian violence has escalated since the withdrawal of U.S. forces. Secretary of State John Kerry says Washington is "very, very concerned" by the fighting but will not send in American troops.