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Iraq militants storm university, seize students

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Gunmen have stormed a university in the restive Anbar province west of Baghdad and are holding dozens of students hostage, Iraqi officials said Saturday.

Police and army officials say the attack took place Saturday morning when gunmen stormed Anbar University near the provincial capital Ramadi, parts of which have been held by Islamic extremists and other anti-government militants for months. The gunmen have detained dozens of students inside the university dormitory, they said.

Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the media.

An Al Qaeda splinter group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and other Sunni-led militants have controlled parts of Anbar province, including the city of Fallujah and parts of Ramadi, since late December.

Iraq is grappling with its worst surge in violence since the sectarian bloodletting of 2006 and 2007, when the country was pushed to the brink of civil war despite the presence of tens of thousands of U.S. troops.

The latest violence has been fueled by Sunni Muslim anger at the Shiite-led government in Baghdad, as well as the civil war in neighboring Syria. ISIL has carried out scores of deadly attacks on both sides of the border and imposed a brutal form of Islamic rule in territories under its control. It was not immediately clear if ISIL was behind the university attack.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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