Smoke rises from the site of a bomb attack in Baghdad February 13, 2014. REUTERS/Ahmed Saad
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Sunni Islamist insurgents took over much of a northern Iraqi town on Thursday and laid siege to its town hall, weeks after militants seized a whole city from the country's Shi'ite-led government.Government troops and tanks are still surrounding Falluja in Iraq's western province of Anbar, and have threatened to launch a ground assault to retake it unless the militants lay down their arms by Friday.Militants including ISIL have been gaining ground in Iraq over the past year, but the government's loss of control over Falluja and now Sulaiman Pek marks a major escalation. Sulaiman Pek, 160 km (100 miles) north of Baghdad, is a majority Sunni Arab town of around 25,000 people, with smaller Turkoman and Kurdish communities.More than 300,000 people have already fled violence in Anbar since militants seized Falluja on Jan. 1 after Iraqi security forces cleared a site where Sunnis were protesting against Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.Others deplore ISIL's violent tactics and have joined forces with the army.
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