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Abadi upbeat on government, says militias should follow state

Iraq's Prime Minister-designate Haider al-Abadi speaks during a press conference in Baghdad August 25, 2014. REUTERS/Mahmoud Raouf Mahmoud

BAGHDAD / KIRKUK, Iraq: Iraq’s prime minister-designate called on the country’s numerous Shiite militias and tribes to come under government control and stop acting independently Monday, as violence across the country killed at least 43 people in Shiite-majority areas.

The comments by Haider al-Abadi came at his first news conference since accepting the nomination to be Iraq’s next prime minister, underlining how he is attempting to address the worries of the country’s Sunnis, who say that Shiite militias are targeting them in religiously mixed areas. He added that discussions between political rivals to form a new government were “constructive and positive.”

“We will never allow any armed group to operate outside of the framework of the state,” Abadi told reporters at the presidential palace in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone.

“They all should be within the state framework and under the control of the security forces.”

A number of Shiite militias have answered a call by influential Shiite religious scholar Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, and outgoing Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, to support the Iraqi military, after large divisions fled from ISIS militants in the northern cities of Mosul and Tikrit. A number of Sunni tribes also oppose the militant group.

Abadi also expressed optimism that he would meet the Sept. 10 deadline to form a new government.

“Several meetings and dialogues were held with the political blocs to form a unified vision for our governmental program,” he said. “The negotiations were generally positive and constructive. I hope we will agree to form a unified vision for the governmental program in the next two days.”

Also Monday, separate attacks in several cities, including Baghdad, killed at least 43 people and wounded dozens in Shiite-majority areas.

The deadliest was carried out by a suicide bomber who blew up an explosives-laden vest among Shiite worshippers leaving a mosque after noon prayers in the capital’s eastern New Baghdad area, killing at least 15 and wounding 32 others, a police officer said.

In Karbala, an explosion killed 12 civilians and wounded 31 others. In Hillah, two car bombs went off in separate areas, killing 11 people and wounding 26 others.

In Baghdad’s southern Dora district, a roadside bomb missed a police patrol but hit a civilian car, killing three and wounding 11 others, he added. Two other civilians were killed and 10 wounded in another bomb explosion in an outdoor market in the northern Shaab neighborhood, another police officer said.

Medical officials confirmed the causality figures, speaking on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release information.

Meanwhile, Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by air power retook three villages from jihadist militants northeast of Baghdad and also held off two assaults elsewhere, officials said.

Kurdish forces backed by Iraqi air support retook three villages in the Jalawla area in Diyala province, as well as a main road used by jihadists to transport fighters and supplies, a peshmerga brigadier general said.

He added that Kurdish troops were close to sealing off all entrances to the town of Jalawla, which they have sought to recapture for weeks.

Farther north, militants launched two assaults on the Shiite Turkmen-majority town of Tuz Khurmatu, late Sunday and early Monday.

Both attacks were beaten back by Kurdish forces supported by Iraqi aircraft, officials said.

On Aug. 8, the United States launched a campaign of airstrikes against militants who were pushing back Kurdish troops and threatening Irbil, the capital of their northern region.

Dozens of strikes have helped the Kurds regain ground, including an area called Qaraj which they retook Sunday.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 26, 2014, on page 8.

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