Mourners react during a funeral of an Iraqi soldier, who was killed during clashes in Ramadi, in Najaf, 160 km (99 miles) south of Baghdad, January 16, 2014. REUTERS/Ahmad Mousa
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Islamist militants strengthen grip on Iraq's FallujaAl Qaeda and other insurgent groups have tightened their grip on Falluja, defying the Shi'ite-led Iraqi government's efforts to persuade local tribesmen to expel them from the Sunni Muslim city, residents and officials say. Despite an army siege, fighters and weapons have been flowing into the city, where U.S. troops fought some of their fiercest battles during their 2003-11 occupation of Iraq. Since the city fell out of government control, various rebel groups have loosely aligned with ISIL or are asserting their own influence, officials, tribal leaders and residents said.These include Islamist factions such as the 1920 Revolution Brigades, the Islamic Army, the Mujahedin Army, the Rashidin Army and Ansar al-Sunna, as well as the Army of the Men of the Naqshbandi Order, a Baathist militia created by Izzat al-Duri, a former lieutenant of Iraq's deposed leader Saddam Hussein. Eliana Nabaa, spokeswoman for the U.N. mission in Iraq, said more than 14,000 families -- at least 80,000 people -- had left Falluja and Ramadi since the crisis erupted in late December.
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