BAGHDAD — Iraqi soldiers backed by Shi'ite militias fought Sunni rebels for control of a military base northeast of Baghdad on Saturday as a U.N. envoy warned of chaos if parliament fails to move forward on a government in a next session now set for Sunday. The U.N. special envoy to Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, also urged lawmakers to turn up, after fewer than a third attended the first session on July 1 when Sunnis and Kurds walked out after Shi'ites failed to nominate a premier to replace Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Most of Iraq's Sunnis and Kurds demand al-Maliki leave office, and Shi'ites are divided, but he shows no sign of quitting. Al-Maliki's opponents accuse him of ruling for the Shi'ite majority at the expense of the Sunni and Kurdish minorities, and want him to step aside.
Meanwhile, forces loyal to al-Maliki launched an early morning push Saturday to repel Islamic State militants who fought their way on Thursday into a military base on the edge of Muqdadiya, 50 miles northeast of the capital. Sources at the morgue and hospital in the nearby town of Baquba said they had received the bodies of 15 Shi'ite militia fighters transferred after the morning's fighting. State TV also reported that 24 "terrorists" had been killed. Seven civilians including children from nearby villages were killed by helicopter gunship fire, police and medics said.
First published July 12 2014, 12:47 PM