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Iraqi Shiite militia warns of sectarian fighting

BAGHDAD: A senior member of an Iraqi Shiite militia that once fought the US military warned yesterday that Iraq is heading toward widespread sectarian bloodletting similar to the kind that once pushed the country to the brink of civil war.
The head of the political bureau of the Asaib Ahl Al-Haq group, Adnan Faihan, also said the militia is preparing to defend itself, but denied the group’s involvement in a spate of attacks targeting Iraq’s Sunni Arab minority.
Meanwhile, violence in Iraq on Tuesday killed 45 people, after evening attacks raised an earlier toll, the latest in a spate of unrest sparking concerns the country could be sliding back to all-out sectarian war.
The wave of shootings and bombings, which also wounded nearly 100 people, came the same day ministers discussed ways to curb the violence, while the UN has urged Iraq’s feuding political leaders to resolve long-running disputes that have paralyzed the government and been blamed for its inability to halt the bloodshed.
Tuesday’s deadliest violence struck Baghdad, with 18 people dying in bombings across the capital, while a suicide truck bomb just north of the city killed four others, security and medical officials said.
And in the main northern city of Mosul, explosions and gunfire killed 11 people, including a senior police intelligence officer and a tribal leader. Attacks in the central cities of Baquba, Beiji and Tikrit, meanwhile, left a dozen others dead.
The latest unrest pushed the death toll in May to 548, the highest such figure in at least a year, according to AFP.
May is the second consecutive month in which more than 400 people have been killed, culminating in a total of more than 1,000 dead in less than two months.
As the violence raged, Iraq’s Cabinet discussed its “security challenges” and ways to address them, later announcing measures aimed at stemming the bloodletting.
These included “pursuing all kinds of militias,” calling for a meeting of political powers, providing unspecified support to security agencies, and warning the media against inciting sectarian strife, said the Cabinet.
United Nations envoy Martin Kobler, meanwhile, on Tuesday called for Iraq’s politicians to talk to each other and address their differences and the violence.
“It is their responsibility to stop the bloodshed now... to act immediately and to engage in dialogue to resolve the political impasse and not let terrorists benefit from their political differences,” he said.
And US State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said Washington was in contact with senior Iraqi leaders “to urge calm and help resolve ongoing political and sectarian tensions.”
Iraq is faced with various long-running political crises over issues ranging from power sharing to territorial boundaries, paralyzing the government.
There has been a heightened level of violence since the beginning of the year, coinciding with rising discontent among Iraqi Sunnis, which erupted into protests in late December.

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