US condemns 'barbarism' by Qaeda fighters in Iraq
The United States on Saturday said it was closely watching developments in Iraq's Anbar province, where militants have taken control of Fallujah, condemning Al-Qaeda-linked fighters for committing "barbarism."
Iraq has been fiercely battling the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) since Monday, when security forces broke up an anti-government protest camp near Ramadi set up after demonstrations erupted in late 2012 against what Sunni Arabs say is the marginalisation and targeting of their community.
The violence then spread to Fallujah, and a subsequent withdrawal of security forces from areas of both cities cleared the way for militants to move in.
The fighting has been brutal, with more than 100 people killed on Friday alone, Iraq's deadliest single day in years.
Washington is monitoring the situation closely, the State Department said in a statement, expressing concern over "efforts of the terrorist Al Qaida/Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant to assert its authority in Syria as well as Iraq."
"Their barbarism against civilians of Ramadi and Fallujah and against Iraqi Security Forces is on display for all to see," State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said in the strongly worded statement.
The United States was in "close contact" both with Iraq's political leaders and with "tribal leaders from Anbar province who are showing great courage as they fight to eject these terrorist groups from their cities," Harf said.
Some tribal leaders have "declared an open revolt against ISIL," she said, adding the US aims to "support those tribes in every possible way."