Forty insurgents of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), an al-Qaeda—linked group, are dead after a clash with the Iraqi army in the volatile western city of Fallujah, a military spokesman said Friday.
An army ground and air offensive in the city was responsible for “killing 40 terrorists and destroying 15 vehicles loaded with weaponry,” General Mohammed al—Askari added in a statement.
The official did not give figures about potential casualties among government troops.
In December, the Iraqi military launched an operation in the western province of Anbar after 16 military personnel, including a senior commander, were killed in an attack by militants.
Days later, tensions increased in Anbar after troops loyal to the Shiite—led government cleared out a Sunni protest camp in Ramadi, the capital city of the Sunni—dominated province.
ISIL militants took advantage of the tensions and seized Fallujah, as well as vast areas in Ramadi, the capital city of Anbar.
The army has since mounted a series of attacks to drive out the insurgents.
At least 46,000 families have been forced to flee Anbar since late December due to the fighting, the Iraqi Red Crescent said Thursday.
The violence in Anbar has raised the prospect of a return to the sectarian bloodshed that pushed Iraq to the brink of civil war in 2006 and 2007.
According to UN estimates, 8,868 people were killed in 2013, Iraq’s highest annual death toll in five years.