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More than 140,000 Iraqis flee Anbar province as clashes with al-Qaida militants intensify

  • In this Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014 photo, mourners carry the coffin of Haitham Abdo Rahman, 38, who was killed in a bombing, before his burial at the cemetery in Fallujah, Iraq. Islamic militants controlling a mainly Sunni area west of Baghdad are so well-armed that they could occupy the capital, members of Iraq's al-Qaida branch - known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant - have taken over parts of Ramadi, the capital of the largely Sunni western province of Anbar. (AP Photo)

    In this Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014 photo, mourners carry the coffin of Haitham Abdo Rahman, 38, who was killed in a bombing, before his burial at the cemetery in Fallujah, Iraq. Islamic militants controlling a mainly Sunni area west of Baghdad are so well-armed that they could occupy the capital, members of Iraq's al-Qaida branch - known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant - have taken over parts of Ramadi, the capital of the largely Sunni western province of Anbar. (AP Photo)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014 photo, mourners pray over the coffin of Haitham Abdo Rahman, 38, who was killed in a bombing, before his burial at the cemetery in Fallujah, Iraq. Islamic militants controlling a mainly Sunni area west of Baghdad are so well-armed that they could occupy the capital, members of Iraq's al-Qaida branch - known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant - have taken over parts of Ramadi, the capital of the largely Sunni western province of Anbar. (AP Photo)

    In this Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014 photo, mourners pray over the coffin of Haitham Abdo Rahman, 38, who was killed in a bombing, before his burial at the cemetery in Fallujah, Iraq. Islamic militants controlling a mainly Sunni area west of Baghdad are so well-armed that they could occupy the capital, members of Iraq's al-Qaida branch - known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant - have taken over parts of Ramadi, the capital of the largely Sunni western province of Anbar. (AP Photo)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014 photo, gunmen prepare to take up combat positions in Fallujah, Iraq. Islamic militants controlling a mainly Sunni area west of Baghdad are so well-armed that they could occupy the capital, members of Iraq's al-Qaida branch - known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant - have taken over parts of Ramadi, the capital of the largely Sunni western province of Anbar. (AP Photo)

    In this Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014 photo, gunmen prepare to take up combat positions in Fallujah, Iraq. Islamic militants controlling a mainly Sunni area west of Baghdad are so well-armed that they could occupy the capital, members of Iraq's al-Qaida branch - known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant - have taken over parts of Ramadi, the capital of the largely Sunni western province of Anbar. (AP Photo)  (The Associated Press)

A United Nations official says more than 140,000 Iraqis have fled parts of Anbar province over clashes between security forces and al-Qaida militants.

The spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Peter Kessler, described it as "the largest" displacement witnessed in the country since the sectarian violence of 2006-2008.

He added that more than 65,000 people fled the conflict in the cities of Ramadi and Fallujah just in the past week alone.

Since late December, members of Iraq's al-Qaida branch — known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant — have taken over parts of Ramadi, the capital of the largely Sunni province of Anbar. They also control the center of the nearby city of Fallujah.