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Iraqi Government Says Airstrike Kills 25 Militants

  • Civilians inspect the site of a car bomb attack in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Police said a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden truck into a police station, killing and wounding scores of people in the northern city, home to a mix of Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen, each of the ethnic groups has competing claims to the oil-rich area. (AP Photo/Emad Matti)

    Civilians inspect the site of a car bomb attack in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Police said a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden truck into a police station, killing and wounding scores of people in the northern city, home to a mix of Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen, each of the ethnic groups has competing claims to the oil-rich area. (AP Photo/Emad Matti)

  • Civilians inspect the site of a car bomb attack in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Police said a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden truck into a police station, killing and wounding scores of people in the northern city, home to a mix of Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen, each of the ethnic groups has competing claims to the oil-rich area. (AP Photo/Emad Matti)

    Civilians inspect the site of a car bomb attack in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Police said a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden truck into a police station, killing and wounding scores of people in the northern city, home to a mix of Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen, each of the ethnic groups has competing claims to the oil-rich area. (AP Photo/Emad Matti)

  • Civilians inspect the site of a suicide car bomb attack in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Police said a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden truck into a police station in the northern city, home to a mix of Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen, each of the ethnic groups has competing claims to the oil-rich area. (AP Photo/Emad Matti)

    Civilians inspect the site of a suicide car bomb attack in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Police said a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden truck into a police station in the northern city, home to a mix of Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen, each of the ethnic groups has competing claims to the oil-rich area. (AP Photo/Emad Matti)

  • Civilians inspect the site of a suicide car bomb attack in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Police said a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden truck into a police station in the northern city, home to a mix of Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen, each of the ethnic groups has competing claims to the oil-rich area. (AP Photo/Emad Matti)

    Civilians inspect the site of a suicide car bomb attack in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Police said a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden truck into a police station in the northern city, home to a mix of Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen, each of the ethnic groups has competing claims to the oil-rich area. (AP Photo/Emad Matti)

  • Iraqi firefighters hose down a burned car after a car bomb attack in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Police said a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden truck into a police station, killing and wounding scores of people in the northern city, home to a mix of Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen, each of the ethnic groups has competing claims to the oil-rich area. (AP Photo/Emad Matti)

    Iraqi firefighters hose down a burned car after a car bomb attack in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Police said a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden truck into a police station, killing and wounding scores of people in the northern city, home to a mix of Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen, each of the ethnic groups has competing claims to the oil-rich area. (AP Photo/Emad Matti)

  • Iraqi firefighters hose down a burned car after a car bomb attack in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Police said a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden truck into a police station, killing and wounding scores of people in the northern city, home to a mix of Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen, each of the ethnic groups has competing claims to the oil-rich area. (AP Photo/Emad Matti)

    Iraqi firefighters hose down a burned car after a car bomb attack in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Police said a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden truck into a police station, killing and wounding scores of people in the northern city, home to a mix of Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen, each of the ethnic groups has competing claims to the oil-rich area. (AP Photo/Emad Matti)

  • Iraqi firefighters hose down a burned car after a car bomb attack in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Police said a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden truck into a police station, killing and wounding scores of people in the northern city, home to a mix of Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen, each of the ethnic groups has competing claims to the oil-rich area. (AP Photo/Emad Matti)

    Iraqi firefighters hose down a burned car after a car bomb attack in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Police said a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden truck into a police station, killing and wounding scores of people in the northern city, home to a mix of Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen, each of the ethnic groups has competing claims to the oil-rich area. (AP Photo/Emad Matti)

  • Security forces and civilians gather at a crater caused by a suicide car bomb attack in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Police said a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden truck into a police station, killing and wounding scores of people in the northern city, home to a mix of Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen, each of the ethnic groups has competing claims to the oil-rich area. (AP Photo/Emad Matti)

    Security forces and civilians gather at a crater caused by a suicide car bomb attack in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Police said a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden truck into a police station, killing and wounding scores of people in the northern city, home to a mix of Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen, each of the ethnic groups has competing claims to the oil-rich area. (AP Photo/Emad Matti)

  • Security forces and civilians gather at a crater caused by a suicide car bomb attack in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Police said a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden truck into a police station, killing and wounding scores of people in the northern city, home to a mix of Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen, each of the ethnic groups has competing claims to the oil-rich area. (AP Photo/Emad Matti)

    Security forces and civilians gather at a crater caused by a suicide car bomb attack in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Police said a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden truck into a police station, killing and wounding scores of people in the northern city, home to a mix of Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen, each of the ethnic groups has competing claims to the oil-rich area. (AP Photo/Emad Matti)

  • An injured policeman inspects the site of a suicide car bomb attack in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Police said a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden truck into a police station in the northern city, home to a mix of Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen, each of the ethnic groups has competing claims to the oil-rich area. (AP Photo/Emad Matti)

    An injured policeman inspects the site of a suicide car bomb attack in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Police said a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden truck into a police station in the northern city, home to a mix of Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen, each of the ethnic groups has competing claims to the oil-rich area. (AP Photo/Emad Matti)

  • An injured policeman inspects the site of a suicide car bomb attack in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Police said a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden truck into a police station in the northern city, home to a mix of Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen, each of the ethnic groups has competing claims to the oil-rich area. (AP Photo/Emad Matti)

    An injured policeman inspects the site of a suicide car bomb attack in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Police said a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden truck into a police station in the northern city, home to a mix of Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen, each of the ethnic groups has competing claims to the oil-rich area. (AP Photo/Emad Matti)

  • This Jan. 7, 2014 photo from aerial video provided by the Iraq Defence Ministry, but which the authenticity of cannot be independently verified by The Associated Press, shows an ammunition dump on fire after being hit by an airstrike, in Anbar Province, Iraq. (AP Photo/Iraq Defence Ministry)

    This Jan. 7, 2014 photo from aerial video provided by the Iraq Defence Ministry, but which the authenticity of cannot be independently verified by The Associated Press, shows an ammunition dump on fire after being hit by an airstrike, in Anbar Province, Iraq. (AP Photo/Iraq Defence Ministry)

  • This Jan. 7, 2014 photo from aerial video provided by the Iraq Defence Ministry, but which the authenticity of cannot be independently verified by The Associated Press, shows an ammunition dump on fire after being hit by an airstrike, in Anbar Province, Iraq. (AP Photo/Iraq Defence Ministry)

    This Jan. 7, 2014 photo from aerial video provided by the Iraq Defence Ministry, but which the authenticity of cannot be independently verified by The Associated Press, shows an ammunition dump on fire after being hit by an airstrike, in Anbar Province, Iraq. (AP Photo/Iraq Defence Ministry)

  • Civilians inspect the site of a car bomb attack in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Police said a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden truck into a police station, killing and wounding scores of people in the northern city, home to a mix of Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen, each of the ethnic groups has competing claims to the oil-rich area. (AP Photo/Emad Matti)
  • Civilians inspect the site of a car bomb attack in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Police said a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden truck into a police station, killing and wounding scores of people in the northern city, home to a mix of Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen, each of the ethnic groups has competing claims to the oil-rich area. (AP Photo/Emad Matti)
  • Civilians inspect the site of a suicide car bomb attack in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Police said a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden truck into a police station in the northern city, home to a mix of Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen, each of the ethnic groups has competing claims to the oil-rich area. (AP Photo/Emad Matti)
  • Civilians inspect the site of a suicide car bomb attack in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Police said a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden truck into a police station in the northern city, home to a mix of Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen, each of the ethnic groups has competing claims to the oil-rich area. (AP Photo/Emad Matti)
  • Iraqi firefighters hose down a burned car after a car bomb attack in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Police said a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden truck into a police station, killing and wounding scores of people in the northern city, home to a mix of Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen, each of the ethnic groups has competing claims to the oil-rich area. (AP Photo/Emad Matti)
  • Iraqi firefighters hose down a burned car after a car bomb attack in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Police said a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden truck into a police station, killing and wounding scores of people in the northern city, home to a mix of Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen, each of the ethnic groups has competing claims to the oil-rich area. (AP Photo/Emad Matti)
  • Iraqi firefighters hose down a burned car after a car bomb attack in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Police said a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden truck into a police station, killing and wounding scores of people in the northern city, home to a mix of Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen, each of the ethnic groups has competing claims to the oil-rich area. (AP Photo/Emad Matti)
  • Security forces and civilians gather at a crater caused by a suicide car bomb attack in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Police said a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden truck into a police station, killing and wounding scores of people in the northern city, home to a mix of Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen, each of the ethnic groups has competing claims to the oil-rich area. (AP Photo/Emad Matti)
  • Security forces and civilians gather at a crater caused by a suicide car bomb attack in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Police said a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden truck into a police station, killing and wounding scores of people in the northern city, home to a mix of Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen, each of the ethnic groups has competing claims to the oil-rich area. (AP Photo/Emad Matti)
  • An injured policeman inspects the site of a suicide car bomb attack in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Police said a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden truck into a police station in the northern city, home to a mix of Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen, each of the ethnic groups has competing claims to the oil-rich area. (AP Photo/Emad Matti)
  • An injured policeman inspects the site of a suicide car bomb attack in Kirkuk, 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Police said a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden truck into a police station in the northern city, home to a mix of Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen, each of the ethnic groups has competing claims to the oil-rich area. (AP Photo/Emad Matti)
  • This Jan. 7, 2014 photo from aerial video provided by the Iraq Defence Ministry, but which the authenticity of cannot be independently verified by The Associated Press, shows an ammunition dump on fire after being hit by an airstrike, in Anbar Province, Iraq. (AP Photo/Iraq Defence Ministry)
  • This Jan. 7, 2014 photo from aerial video provided by the Iraq Defence Ministry, but which the authenticity of cannot be independently verified by The Associated Press, shows an ammunition dump on fire after being hit by an airstrike, in Anbar Province, Iraq. (AP Photo/Iraq Defence Ministry)

Baghdad — A government airstrike killed 25 al-Qaida-linked militants in a besieged province west of Baghdad amid fierce clashes Tuesday between Iraqi special forces and insurgents battling for control of the key cities of Fallujah and Ramadi, Iraqi officials said.

The al-Qaida gains in the Sunni-dominated province of Anbar — once bloody battlegrounds for U.S. troops — pose the most serious challenge to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Shiite-led government since the departure of American forces in late 2011.

Iraqi forces and fighters from government-allied Sunni tribes have been battling militants to try to recapture the strategic territory, seized last week by an al-Qaida-linked group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.

Iraqi military spokesman Gen. Mohammed al-Askari said the Iraqi air force struck an operations center for the militants on the outskirts of Ramadi, the provincial capital, killing 25 fighters who were holed up inside.

He didn’t give more details about how the death toll was confirmed but cited intelligence reports.

It was not possible to independently verify the military’s claim.

The airstrike came after clashes erupted about 12 miles west of Fallujah following the capture of an army officer and four soldiers in the area a day earlier, provincial spokesman Dhari al-Rishawi told The Associated Press.

There was no immediate word on casualties for those clashes.

Al-Maliki’s government has vowed to rout the militants, calling on Fallujah residents Monday to expel the al-Qaida fighters to avoid an all-out battle.