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State Dept. 'Concerned' Amid Reports Al-Qaeda Gaining Control in Iraq

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(FALLUJAH, Iraq) -- Following reports on Thursday that groups linked to al-Qaeda had been gaining control of cities in western Iraq, the U.S. State Department issued a statement expressing their concern.

The State Department says it is "concerned" by the efforts of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant -- a group tied to al-Qaeda -- to gain power in Iraq as well as Syria. "Their barbarism against civilians of Ramadi and Fallujah and against Iraqi Security Forces is on display for all to see."

An official with Iraq's Interior Ministry claimed that the ISIL, 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.

Clashes between the Iraqi army and the groups linked to al-Qaeda have been reported  in recent days.

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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