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Al Qaeda Gaining Control of Western Iraqi Cities

Marcio Silva/Thinkstock(BAGHDAD) -- Following the most violent year in Iraq since the height of the war, the central government delivered more bad news Thursday about the rising influence of al Qaeda-linked groups in the country.

An official with Iraq's Interior Ministry claimed that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, blamed for much of 2013's spike in deadly attacks, have established strongholds in two of Anbar Province's most volatile western cities.

It's alleged that al Qaeda now controls more than half of Fallujah as well as various sections of Ramadi. Armed Sunni tribesman supposedly hold sway in the rest of Fallujah and Ramadi.

Both cities were flashpoints for the insurgency in Iraq that nearly brought down the fledgling democracy before then-President George W. Bush ordered a troop surge in 2007 that quelled the uprising.

The government's attempts in trying to restore order in restive western Iraq include taking the fight directly to the militants, who have responded by burning down police stations.

Recently, the Obama administration announced it was providing heavy artillery and drones to Iraq to help combat al Qaeda and other militants.

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