(BAGHDAD) — With sectarian-style violence hitting too close to home, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki tried putting on a display of much needed national unity during a press conference in Baghdad Tuesday.
Since late April, terrorist bombings have picked up in intensity throughout the country with hundreds of fatalities and fears that Iraq could be headed back to the days when Shiites and Sunnis engaged in open warfare following the deposal of dictator Saddam Hussein.
As Maliki himself has been criticized for marginalizing Sunnis and Kurds, the leader gathered his top ministers and leading Sunni politicians “to send a message of reassurance that all are in agreement on shouldering their responsibility in confronting the outlaws regardless of their affiliation, sect or political party they belong to.”
In perhaps his toughest pronouncement since the current crisis began, the prime minister vowed, “We will chase down all the illegal militias and armed gangs that want to instigate a wave of societal fighting. As far as we are concerned this constitutes a red line.”
Al Qaeda militants have taken advantage of this period of uncertainty by launching more deadly bomb attacks. Even before al-Maliki spoke, an explosion at a bus stop in Baghdad’s teeming Sadr City slum killed six people and wounded 20.
This followed Monday’s barrage of bombings in the capital that left nearly 70 people dead and hundreds wounded.
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Madison Park and Steve Almasy, CNN
Sheena McKenzie, CNN
Chandrika Narayan and Steve Almasy, CNN
Billy Hallowell, Deseret News