Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al—Maliki on Monday urged residents and tribes of Fallujah to help fight the al—Qaeda militants who took control of the western city last week.

Al—Maliki “appealed to residents and tribes of Fallujah to expel terrorists from the city, so that they are not exposed to the dangers of armed confrontations,” according to the statement aired on the state—run Iraqiya television.

He also ordered “security forces not to strike residential areas.” Fighters of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) — an al—Qaeda affiliated group — have taken full control of Fallujah, a key city in Anbar province, and large areas of the provincial capital Ramadi, leading to the sacking of the province’s police chief, Major General Hadi Kassar.

Clashes between Iraqi security forces and ISIL intensified in different areas across Anbar on Sunday.

The militants apparently took advantage of tensions that had erupted in Anbar after security forces cleared out a Sunni protest camp in Ramadi last week.

The region was the site of major US operations during the US—led invasion of 2003. The US State Department said Saturday it was working with the Iraqi government and local leaders to assist in the fight against terrorist groups.

According to UN estimates, 8,868 people were killed in Iraq in 2013, the highest annual death toll in five years.

More In: World | International | News