Al-Qaeda urges Iraqi Sunnis not to lay down arms

The Iraqi army is preparing for a “major” offensive to recapture parts of Anbar controlled by al-Qaeda

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Al-Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) urged Iraqi Sunni tribal fighters fighting government forces in the Anbar province not to lay down their arms, saying the choice is between conflict and enslavement, in an audio recording released Tuesday.

“Oh Sunni people, you were forced to take up the weapon... do not lay the weapon down, because if you put it down this time, the (Shiites) will enslave you and you will not rise again,” spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) said.

The call came as Iraqi forces prepared for a major offensive to recapture the cities of Ramadi and Falluja partly controlled by al-Qaeda militants, Anbar Police Chief Maj. Gen. Ismail al-Mahallawi told Al Arabiya News Channel on Tuesday.

“All police members have been called in to their duties ahead of major security operation to regain full control of Ramadi and falluja,” Gen. Mahallawi said.

He noted that “modern sophisticated weapons” will be deployed to track and target militants in Anbar.

The United States has said it would accelerate military sales and deliveries to Iraq to help Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government fight al-Qaeda-linked militants in the restive Anbar province.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the United States is looking to provide additional shipments of Hellfire missiles as early as this spring.

The United States will also provide 10 ScanEagle surveillance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to Iraq in upcoming weeks and 48 Raven surveillance UAVs later this year, Carney said.

Despite an ongoing military campaign, Iraqi troops have failed to recapture jihadist-held areas of Anbar.

Iraqi defense ministry said on Tuesday that a government airstrike killed 25 al-Qaeda militants in the besieged province.

On Monday fighters loyal to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant were in control of parts of Falluja, west of Baghdad, after fighting off a police assault.

“Security forces and armed tribesmen tried last night to enter areas controlled by the ISIL in the south of the city,” a police captain in Ramadi told AFP.

“Clashes erupted at 11 pm (2000 GMT) and ended this morning at 6 am (0300 GMT). The security forces failed to enter these areas and ISIL is still in control.”

Four civilians were killed and 14 wounded in the fighting, Dr Ahmed Abdel Salam of Ramadi hospital told AFP.

He had no figures for any casualties in the ranks of either the army or the militants.

Due to concerns regarding more civilian casualties, Staff Lt. Gen. Mohammad al-Askari told AFP, “It is not possible to assault it (Fallujah) now.”

Iraqi missile strikes on Ramadi killed 25 militants, the defense ministry spokesman said.

ISIL loyalists took advantage of a surge of anger among Sunni Arabs at the clearance of a year-old protest camp outside Ramadi on Dec. 30 to seize large swathes of the city and the whole of Fallujah to its east.

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