rain
Tuesday May 26th, 2015 9:58PM

Iraq militia parades as insurgents seize crossing

By The Associated Press
BAGHDAD (AP) -- Thousands of heavily-armed Shiite militiamen paraded through several Iraqi cities on Saturday after Sunni militants seized a town on the Syrian border in what appeared to be the start of a new offensive in the western Anbar province.<br /> <br /> The capture on Friday of the town of Qaim and its border crossing dealt another blow to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government, which has struggled to push back against Islamic extremists and allied militants who have seized large swaths of the country's north, including the second largest city Mosul.<br /> <br /> But while al-Maliki has come under mounting pressure to reach out to disaffected Kurds and Sunnis, the display of heavy weapons by the Shiite fighters indicated that forces beyond Baghdad's control may be pushing the conflict toward a sectarian showdown.<br /> <br /> In Baghdad, about 20,000 men, many in combat gear, marched through the Sadr City district with assault rifles, machine guns, multiple rocket launchers, field artillery and missiles. Similar parades were held in the southern cities of Amarah and Basra.<br /> <br /> The parades were staged by followers of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who once led a powerful militia that battled U.S. troops and was blamed for some of the mass killing of Sunni civilians during the sectarian bloodletting that peaked in 2006 and 2007.<br /> <br /> Police and army officials said the al-Qaida breakaway Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, along with allied militants, seized Qaim and its crossing, about 320 kilometers (200 miles) west of Baghdad, after killing some 30 Iraqi troops in daylong clashes Friday.<br /> <br /> The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to media, said people were now crossing back and forth freely.<br /> <br /> Chief military spokesman Lt. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi tacitly acknowledged Qaim's fall, telling a news conference in Baghdad that troops aided by local tribesmen were seeking to clear the city of "terrorists."<br /> <br /> Sunni militants have carved out a large fiefdom astride the Iraqi-Syrian border and have long traveled back and forth with ease, but the control of crossings allows them to more easily move weapons and heavy equipment to different battlefields.<br /> <br /> Al-Moussawi said fighting was continuing for a fifth day over Iraq's largest refinery in Beiji, north of Baghdad, with the army force there repelling three waves of attacks by the Sunni militants on Friday night.<br /> <br /> The fall of Qaim came as al-Maliki faces mounting pressure to form an inclusive government or step aside, with both a top Shiite cleric and the White House strongly hinting he is in part to blame for the worst crisis since U.S. troops withdrew from the country at the end of 2011.<br /> <br /> Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most respected voice for Iraq's Shiite majority, on Friday joined calls for al-Maliki to reach out to the Kurdish and Sunni minorities a day after President Barack Obama challenged him to create a leadership representative of all Iraqis.<br /> <br /> Al-Sistani normally stays above the political fray, and his comments, delivered through a representative, could ultimately seal al-Maliki's fate.<br /> <br /> Calling for a dialogue between the political coalitions that won seats in the April 30 parliamentary election, al-Sistani said it was imperative that they form "an effective government that enjoys broad national support" and "avoids past mistakes."<br /> <br /> Al-Sistani is deeply revered by Iraq's majority Shiites, and his critical words could force al-Maliki, who emerged from relative obscurity in 2006 to lead the country, to step down.<br /> <br /> On Thursday, Obama stopped short of calling for al-Maliki to resign, but his carefully worded comments did all but that. "Only leaders that can govern with an inclusive agenda are going to be able to truly bring the Iraqi people together and help them through this crisis," Obama said.<br /> <br /> The Iranian-born al-Sistani, believed to be 86, lives in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, south of Baghdad, where he rarely ventures out of his modest house and does not give media interviews. His call to arms last week prompted thousands of Shiites to volunteer to fight against the Sunni militants.<br /> <br /> His call to defend the country, and its Shiite shrines, has given the fight against the Sunni insurgents the feel of a religious war, but his office in Najaf dismissed that charge, saying the top cleric was addressing all Iraqis.<br /> <br /> Al-Maliki's State of Law bloc won the most seats in the April vote, but his hopes to retain his job are in doubt, with rivals challenging him from within the broader Shiite alliance. In order to govern, his bloc must first form a majority coalition in the new 328-seat legislature, which must meet by June 30.<br /> <br /> If al-Maliki were to relinquish his post now, according to the constitution the president, Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, would assume the job until a new prime minister is elected. But the ailing Talabani has been in Germany for treatment since 2012, so his deputy, Khudeir al-Khuzaie, a Shiite, would step in for him.<br /> <br /> Shiite politicians familiar with the secretive efforts to remove al-Maliki said two names mentioned as replacements are former vice president Adel Abdul-Mahdi, a Shiite and French-educated economist, and Ayad Allawi, a secular Shiite who served as Iraq's first prime minister after Saddam Hussein's ouster. Others include Ahmad Chalabi, a one-time Washington favorite to lead Iraq, and Bayan Jabr, another Shiite who served as finance and interior minister under al-Maliki.<br /> <br /> Nearly three years after he heralded the end of America's war in Iraq, Obama announced Thursday he was deploying up to 300 military advisers to help quell the insurgency. They join some 275 troops in and around Iraq to provide security and support for the U.S. Embassy and other American interests.<br /> <br /> Obama has been adamant that U.S. troops would not be returning to combat, but has said he could approve "targeted and precise" strikes requested by Baghdad.<br /> <br /> Manned and unmanned U.S. aircraft are now flying over Iraq 24 hours a day on intelligence missions, U.S. officials say.<br /> <br /> ---<br /> <br /> Associated Press writer Sameer N. Yacoub contributed to this report.
© Copyright 2015 AccessNorthGa.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Judge denies motions to move, delay Tsarnaev trial
Lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev asked a federal appeals court Wednesday to overturn a judge's decision to not move his upcoming trial out of state.
10:02PM ( 4 months ago )
High court to adopt electronic filing of cases
The Supreme Court is belatedly developing an electronic filing system similar to those used in courts around the country, Chief Justice John Roberts said Wednesday in his annual end-of-year report.
7:57PM ( 4 months ago )
Storm brings snow, cold to West for New Year's
A blustery winter storm dumped snow and ice across the West on Wednesday, making driving treacherous in the mountains from California to the Rockies and forcing residents and party-goers in some usually sun-soaked cities to bundle up for a frosty New Year's.
5:19PM ( 4 months ago )
U.S. News
Grass fire impacts rush hour traffic on 985
Rush hour traffic on I-985 was slowed by a grass fire Wednesay afternoon with one lane closed while firefighters fought the blaze.
10:19PM ( 4 months ago )
Hall County conviction, sentencing to be reviewed by SCOGA
The State Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal of a Hall County man when they reconvene in January.
2:37PM ( 4 months ago )
Local/State News
Committee leaves transportation funding to lawmakers
Georgia will have to cover a $1 billion to $1.5 billion transportation funding gap to stay economically competitive, a committee of lawmakers is warning in a report issued Tuesday.
5:36AM ( 4 months ago )
US off war footing at year's end, but wars go on
Taking America off a permanent war footing is proving harder than President Barack Obama may have suggested.
6:13PM ( 4 months ago )
GOP leader regrets talk to white supremacists; party leaders rally around him
House Republican leaders rallied around one of their own, Whip Steve Scalise, on Tuesday after he said he regrets speaking 12 years ago to a white supremacist organization and condemns the views of such groups.
6:08PM ( 4 months ago )
Politics
US rejects nuclear disarmament document over Israel concerns
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United States on Friday blocked a global document aimed at ridding the world of nuclear weapons, saying Egypt and other states tried to "cynically manipulate" the process by...
9:33PM ( 4 days ago )
Obama again avoids calling 1915 Armenian killings 'genocide'
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama will once again stop short of calling the 1915 massacre of Armenians a genocide, prompting anger and disappointment from those who have been pushing him to ful...
1:00PM ( 1 month ago )
Ex-NFL star Hernandez convicted of murder, sentenced to life
FALL RIVER, Mass. (AP) — Former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison Wednesday for a deadly late-night shooting, sealing the d...
8:54PM ( 1 month ago )
Clinton kicks off 2016 campaign online, heads next to Iowa
WASHINGTON (AP) — Hillary Rodham Clinton jumped back into presidential politics on Sunday, making a much-awaited announcement she will again seek the White House with a promise to serve as the "champi...
7:56PM ( 1 month ago )
Hall, White, Jefferson schools recognized nationally for use of technology
Three school districts in northeast Georgia - Hall, White, and Jefferson - have received national recognition for their use use of innovative technologies. They earned top spots in the Center for Digital Education's and the National School Boards Association's 10th annual Digital School Districts Survey.
By Staff
1:00PM ( 1 month ago )