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Sunni fighters carry RPG missile launchers and machine guns as they take up positions in Fallujah, Iraq, on Sunday. According to reports, militants from the Islamist State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have taken full control of Iraq's city of Fallujah and large areas of Ramadi, two key cities in Iraq's western province of Anbar.MOHAMMED JALIL / EPA

The Iraqi city of Fallujah is in the grips of a battle for control between al-Qaida-linked militants and local residents. 

Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki urged residents of the embattled city to fight members of the group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant as dozens of families fled out fear for their lives.NBC News reached local resident, Abu Abdullah, a 55-year-old day laborer, by phone on Monday and he described the situation on the ground.“The situation in Fallujah…is very difficult,” said Abdullah.“There is tank and artillery bombing and mortar fire. We don’t know where it is coming from or where it lands…There is a shortage of food supplies, fuel, gas. Electricity is cut off and lots of families are fleeing to districts like Habaniya and other more secure areas.”

Al-Maliki did not say how he expects Fallujah residents to defend themselves and push the militants out in his message broadcast on state TV.

The recent gains by the al-Qaida linked group have been a blow to Al-Maliki’s Shiite-led government – especially as sectarian violence has grown since the U.S. withdrawal. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington is “very, very concerned” by the fighting, but would not be sending in troops to the dangerous area.