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Iraq

No let-up in Iraq violence as bombs hit Baghdad

Bombings and shootings have claimed the lives of 12 people in Baghdad, including a senior judge. This follows a call by visiting UN chief Ban Ki-moon for "social cohesion" and "dialogue."

Sunni Muslim militants retained control of parts of the Iraqi city of Ramadi on Tuesday and staged bomb attacks near Fallujah, as Iraq's army remained on its eastern outskirts. In Baghdad, bomb and gun attacks resulted in 12 deaths, according to police and medical sources.

The Iraqi army stayed on the outskirts on Fallujah, where doctors estimate 26 people have been killed in the two weeks of fighting.

Witnesses quoted by the news agency AFP said civil servants had returned to work but schools remained closed. Gunmen remained in control.

Militants 'destroy' Iraqi tanks

Police in the Albubali area - between Fallujah and Ramadi - said the militants had destroyed two army tanks by detonating an explosives-laden fuel tanker under a highway bridge.

Militants also seized an adjacent police station, prompting raids by army helicopters.

In Baghdad, gunmen in a speeding car shot shot dead the judge and his driver. A bomb attached to a mini-bus killed three passengers.

Ban urges 'dialog

Visiting refugees from neighboring war-torn Syria in the Kurdish-hub of Irbil in northern Iraq on Monday, Ban had urged Iraqi leaders to seek "political dialogue" and said he was saddened to "so many young children and vulnerable groups who suffer from this man-made tragedy."

At a news conference with Ban, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who heads a Shiite-led government, ruled out dialogue with jihadists in Anbar province - the largely arid zone west of Baghdad, where Fallujah and Ramadi are located.

"Dialogue with whom - with al Qaeda?," asked Maliki, referring to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the Sunni militant group linked with al Qaeda that seized Fallujah two weeks ago and parts of Ramadi in recent days.

Maliki said his government's intention was to "end al Qaeda," but insisted that events in Anbar had "no relation to Iraqi problems."

Highest level since 2006

The violence is back at its highest level since sectarian Sunni-Shiite bloodshed in 2006-07. So far in January, at least 233 people have died in violence.

US combat troops left Iraq two years ago, but they continue to offer support - in the form of military equipment - to the goverment.

ipj/ph (AFP, Reuters, AP)

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