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January 08, 2014 AT 3:38 AM
Sunni militants and armed tribesmen angry with the government set off days of fighting when they took control of Falluja last week. On Tuesday fierce clashes erupted again, while government forces with tanks and heavy weapons circled the city, waiting for orders from the prime minister. In Baghdad, officials held off calling for an offensive, heeding pleas from local leaders inside Anbar who warned that civilian casualties would end any amount of support the government could count on from local tribes in routing Al Qaeda. In Falluja many people say they hate the government even more than Al Qaeda, underscoring the difficulty facing Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki as he seeks to put down an escalating Sunni insurgency in Anbar Province with a forceful military offensive that he and his advisers have suggested could begin at any moment.