Kurdish Peshmerga troops secure an area in the town of Sulaiman Pek in Salahuddin province June 21, 2014. (REUTERS/Yahya Ahmad)
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BAGHDAD:- Sunni insurgents led by an Al-Qaeda breakaway group have expanded their offensive in a volatile western province of Iraq, capturing three strategic towns and the first border crossing with Syria to fall on the Iraqi side.In a reflection of the bitter divide, thousands of heavily armed Shiite militiamen -- eager to take on the Sunni insurgents -- marched through Iraqi cities in military-style parades Saturday on streets where many of them battled U.S. forces a half decade ago.Maliki's Shiite-dominated government has struggled to push back against the Sunni militants, who have seized large swaths of the country's north since taking control of the second-largest city of Mosul on June 10 as Iraqi government forces melted away.In Baghdad, about 20,000 militiamen loyal to anti-U.S. Shiite preacher Muqtada al-Sadr, many in military fatigues, marched through the sprawling Shiite Sadr City district, which saw some of the worst fighting between Shiite militias and U.S. soldiers before a cease-fire was reached in 2008 that helped stem the sectarian bloodshed that was pushing the country to the brink of civil war.
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