RAMADI, IRAQ – Nationwide violence killed 34 people on Sunday while civil servants west of Baghdad returned to work under tight security, with Iraqi forces locked in a deadly two-week standoff with militants.
Gunmen and security forces clashed west and south of Baghdad, while bombings and shootings struck the capital and several areas in northern Iraq that have borne the brunt of a months-long surge in bloodshed.
Armored vehicles and tanks were meanwhile deployed at intersections in Ramadi— a former insurgent stronghold where authorities have wrested control of all but two neighborhoods from militants, as the crisis in surrounding Anbar province entered its 14th day.
Gunmen also hold Fallujah, another Anbar city and former militant bastion 60 km from Baghdad.
It is the first time militants have exercised such open control in major cities since the insurgency that followed the U.S.-led 2003 invasion.
The worst of Sunday’s violence, however, hit the capital and surrounding areas.
Car bombs in the predominantly Shiite area of Kadhimiyah and the religiously mixed area of Allawi killed 14 people in total, while a roadside bomb in west Baghdad left another person dead.
Two militants were killed by security forces just south of Baghdad, while in Abu Ghraib, west of the capital, militants attacked Iraqi soldiers, after which at least one helicopter opened fire.
The violence killed at least eight people and wounded 17, but accounts of the incident differed.
One security official said all of the dead and wounded were civilians killed by helicopter fire, while a second said the casualties may also include militants, and that the toll was for the entire engagement.
And a medical official said both soldiers and civilians were killed.
Violence in Mosul, Tikrit and Tuz Khurmatu, all restive areas north of Baghdad, left nine others dead and dozens wounded, including two journalists injured by a magnetic “sticky bomb” attached to their car.
In Anbar, meanwhile, provincial council member Raja Barakat al-Aifan reported that approximately 60 percent of government employees were back at work, having taken almost two weeks off due to the turmoil in the province.
Anbar Gov. Ahmed Khalaf al-Dulaimi had called for government employees to return to work on Sunday, the first day of the work week in much of the Arab world.