People gather at the site of a car bomb attack in Baghdad's Sadr City, August 1, 2014. REUTERS/Wissm al-Okili
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Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki faced pressure to step down Friday, as the country's most influential Shiite figure and the foreign minister criticized his handling of the recent jihadist offensive.Maliki, who has led the country since 2006, has insisted he remain in the post for a third four-year term.The next government is expected to grapple with an unprecedented blitz offensive by jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and greater Syria (ISIS), which in June seized a large chunk of the country's north and west. Sistani's appeal came as Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said Maliki and his security officials were to blame for the rise of ISIS.In violence Friday, at least 17 soldiers were killed in a fierce battle against jihadists south of Baghdad, while bombs in and around the capital left another 16 people dead.An army medic confirmed the death toll, with both sources saying 23 jihadists from ISIS were also killed.
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