Rivals of Iraq prime minister, embattled by sweeping militant offensive, seek to force him out
BAGHDAD (AP) - Iraq’s Shiite prime minister, embattled by the militant offensive sweeping his country’s north, faces a growing campaign to force him out of office as insurgents press on with their campaign.
Nouri al-Maliki, who rose from relative obscurity to the country’s top political office in 2006, has seen his credibility challenged by the Sunni militants of the al-Qaida-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The insurgents launched a stunning offensive last week that swallowed up a large chunk of northern Iraq, together with the nation’s second-largest city, Mosul.
With the country now in turmoil, al-Maliki’s rivals have mounted a campaign to force him out of office, with some angling for support from Western backers and regional heavyweights. On Thursday, their effort received a massive boost from President Barack Obama.
The U.S. leader stopped short of calling for Nouri al-Maliki to resign, saying “it’s not our job to choose Iraq’s leaders.” 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 declared at the White House.
7 Ukrainian troops killed in eastern Ukraine, rebel tanks sighted
YANAKIYEVE, Ukraine (AP) - Seven Ukrainian troops were killed in overnight fighting in the restive east, Ukrainian officials said Friday, as clashes between government forces and pro-Russian rebels flared two days after the president said he would soon call a unilateral cease-fire.
Rebels were operating tanks in the region, a particular sore spot for Ukraine, which accuses Russia of letting the vehicles cross the border.
Vladislav Seleznev, spokesman for Ukrainian forces in the east, said the seven soldiers had been killed since Thursday and 30 injured in fighting against pro-Russian separatists outside the village of Yampil in the Donetsk region. He said 300 rebels were killed, but that could not be immediately verified.
An Associated Press reporter saw pro-Russian fighters moving in a column with two tanks and three armored personnel carriers near the town of Yanakiyeve in the direction of the town of Horlikva in the Donetsk region. The tanks flew small flags of a pro-Russian militia but otherwise had no markings. The fighters declined to say what they were doing, other than that it was a “secret operation.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin has voiced concern about the Ukrainian military onslaught, while NATO on Thursday reported that Russia was resuming a military build-up at the Ukrainian border.
10 Things to Know for Today