Jan 6 - Families flee violence in the Iraqi cities of Falluja and Kerbala. Paul Chapman reports.
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The fighting between Sunni militants and Iraqi government forces in Anbar province has sparked an exodus of families seeking refuge.
Many are heading to Kerbala.
(SOUNDBITE)(Arabic) Mohammed, resident from Ramadi, saying:
"We're from Ramadi and we're going to Kerbala to get food and cooking gas. We're displaced people. We thank the people of Kerbala."
Families fleeing the violence are stopped and searched for weapons at checkpoints along the way like this one at El Tamarm.
Residents of such towns on the way are helping the refugees with donations of food and other essentials.
(SOUNDBITE)(Arabic) Abu Faris, local resident, saying:
"We're providing the people of Ramadi with food and flour. They've been affected and they have nothing so we're supplying relief aid."
The Iraqi government launched an air strike on Ramadi on Sunday in which 25 suspected militants were reported to have been killed.
Al Qaeda-linked militants and tribal fighters seized large areas of Ramadi and Falluja cities last week.
It's the first time Sunni insurgents have taken ground in Anbar province's major cities and held their positions for days.
Al Qaeda's Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has been steadily tighting its grip on Anbar province in the past few months.
It wants to create a Sunni Muslim state straddling the border with Syria.
The violence highlights the risk of Syria's civil war spilling over into Iraq and threatening the delicate sectarian balance there.
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