Several people have been killed in fighting that broke out when Iraqi police moved to dismantle a Sunni Muslim protest camp in Anbar province, according to police and medical sources.
Police sources said the clashes broke out on Monday when armed men opened fire on police special forces trying to enter Ramadi, the western Iraqi city where the protest camp is located.
Shooting and blasts were heard in parts of the city. The assailants destroyed four police vehicles and killed at least three policemen in the north of Ramadi, one source said.
The bodies of 10 other people killed in the clashes were brought into Ramadi’s morgue, hospital and morgue sources told Reuters news agency.
Separately, assailants in Anbar attacked army patrols deployed along the main highway in Fallujah leading to Ramadi.
Lieutenant-General Mohammed al-Askari, Iraqi Defence Ministry spokesman, told state television the decision to remove the camp came after tribal leaders and local government and defence ministry officials reached a deal.
Some police sources and local officials in Ramadi said tents were still standing in the camp although police and army forces had surrounded the area.
Ali Mussawi, spokesman for Nouri al-Maliki, prime minister of Iraq’s Shia-led government, told AFP that military sources confirmed local police and tribes “completed the removal of the tents that were [at] the site, and opened the road that was closed.”
This was done “without any losses, after Al-Qaeda and its members escaped from the camp to the city, and they are being pursued now,” Mussawi said.
The UN called for restraint.
“I am concerned about the current developments in Anbar and call on all to remain calm and to abide by the agreements reached in the course of the last two days,” Nickolay Mladenov, UN envoy to Iraq, said in a statement.