Armed tribesmen clashed with Iraqi troops on Saturday in the Sunni-dominated province of Anbar, where gunmen kidnapped five policemen, security officials said.

The policemen were abducted on Saturday while on their way to a police station about 160 km east of Ramadi.

Ramadi is the main city in the province, which has been a focal point for anti-government protests that began in December against the Shiite-led Government.

In the Abu Risha area north of Ramadi, clashes erupted when troops sought to enter the area. Troops withdrew after three hours of gunfire, during which two tribesmen were killed.

A member of the Abu Risha tribe is accused in the killings of five soldiers in April.

The soldiers were killed near a protest camp a few days after about 53 people were killed and 110 injured in clashes that followed the army’s crackdown on Sunni protesters in the town of Heweja, near the oil-producing northern city of Kirkuk.

The clampdown further infuriated Iraq’s Sunni minority, which has held protests demanding that Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki repeal laws they claimed target Sunnis.

On Friday, a series of bombings killed at least 90 people and wounded more than 180 in Iraq.

A rise in attacks in recent months has stoked fears of a return to the kind of sectarian violence that drove Iraq to the brink of civil war in 2006 and 2007.

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