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Many residents of Iraq city of Fallujah flee, fearing major Al-Qaeda battle

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Many residents have fled the Iraqi city of Fallujah after it was seized by jihadists, while others are preparing to stay through what all fear will be a major battle as security forces push to retake it.

Fallujah’s streets are all but empty except for cars navigating alleys in an attempt to escape clashes and shelling on the outskirts.

Among those seeking a way out is Salam al-Kritawi, a 27-year-old taxi driver who has his wife, two young children and bags of clothes with him in his car.

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“We will leave Fallujah now, because the battles will begin, and we do not want to be killed in a battle between Al-Qaeda and security forces,” says Kritawi, who abandoned his city-centre house.

But Sadeq Tallal Assaf, a 31-year-old municipal worker, has decided to stay put and protect his home, after getting family to safety.

“After mortar shells fell on Fallujah, and the increase in clashes, I moved my father and my mother and my wife and my three children… to my uncle’s house” in Baghdad, Assaf says.

“I will stay at home to protect it from theft, as I am able to handle the harsh circumstances more than they could.”

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Fallujah was the target of two major assaults after the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, in which American forces saw some of their heaviest fighting since the Vietnam War.

And it now seems set to be the site of yet another battle.

Parts of Fallujah and Ramadi, both west of Baghdad, have been held by militants for days, harkening back to the years after the 2003 US-led invasion when both cities were insurgent strongholds.

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Fighting erupted in the Ramadi area Monday, when security forces removed the main anti-government protest camp set up after demonstrations broke out in late 2012 against what Sunni Arabs say is the marginalisation and targeting of their community.

It then spread to Fallujah, and the subsequent withdrawal of security forces from areas of both cities cleared the way for militants from the Al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group to move in.

A senior security official in Anbar said Saturday that Fallujah was out of government control, with ISIL militants holding the city.

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Garbage and bullet casings, but no electricity

Five days after the killing began, garbage is piled up in some streets, while others are littered with bullet casings from the fighting.

Most shops are closed, but bakeries remain open, and dozens of people stand in line to buy food.

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All electricity in the city is cut, and there is no fuel to operate the generators that normally plug gaps in government-provided power.

“I will escape with my wife and children, as I am afraid they will die, because security forces are no longer able to distinguish between gunmen, Al-Qaeda and civilians,” says Ahmed Mutlak, 52, who owns a shop in central Fallujah.

He asks the government “to issue a statement demanding the evacuation of Fallujah residents, and to ease the departure of the families” to protect them “from the battles expected to erupt at any time.”

Abu Mohammed, a secondary school teacher, complained that “families left their houses… without having any place to go.”

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“We hope there will not be a big battle.”


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‘Should we talk about Ivanka?’: MSNBC guest calls for Trump family investigation if Biden’s son is scrutinized

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During a panel discussion on Donald Trump's call for an investigation of Joe Biden's son Hunter over his Ukraine dealings, an "AM Joy" guest said if Congress is going to investigate politician's kids why not start with Ivanka Trump and her brothers Don Jr. and Eric.

Speaking with MSNBC host Joy Reid, Intercept columnist Mehdi Hasan called out President Donald Trump for his "brazenness" going after the former vice president's son.

"There's so much to say about this story, as for the Ukrainian denials, what are they going to do, come out and say, 'Yes, Donald Trump did pressure our president eight times in a single phone call'? It's absurd." Hasan began.

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Lindsey Graham drives bus over Trump kids to get to Biden: ‘You can’t investigate one family and not the other’

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Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) suggested on Sunday that the children of both President Donald Trump and Joe Biden should be investigated.

While speaking to Fox News host Maria Bartiromo, Graham was asked if he is calling for an investigation into Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son over dealings in the Ukraine. President Donald Trump allegedly also asked Ukraine's president for help with the Bidens.

"Yeah, I want the Department of Justice to appoint somebody to look at the role the Ukraine played if any in the 2016 elections," Graham told Bartiromo. "There are a lot of allegations out there how Ukraine fed information maybe to the Democrats."

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Entire CNN panel beats down Santorum for Ukraine misinformation: ‘You don’t get to decide what the facts are’

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Conservative CNN contributor Rick Santorum was called out on Sunday after he seemed to be uneducated about President Donald Trump's attempt to have Ukraine investigate Joe Biden and his son.

During a panel discussion on CNN, Republican contributor Mia Love said that Trump's communication with Ukraine was not "appropriate" if he was looking for campaign help.

"There is no equivalence between Joe Biden and Hunter Biden and what this president has allegedly done," Democratic consultant Karen Finney noted. "The things that were investigated against the Bidens [were] shelved, totally debunked."

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