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General killed…fightback falters Parliament delayed

 BAGHDAD, July 7, (Agencies): Shelling west of Baghdad killed the commander of the Iraqi army’s 6th division on Monday, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s security spokesman said. Staff Major General Najm Abdullah al- Sudani was killed by “hostile shelling” west of the Iraqi capital, Lieutenant General Qassem Atta told AFP by text message. Maliki issued a statement offering his condolences on the death of Sudani, who was “martyred on the field of battle”.

The premier attended a funeral for Sudani on Monday along with acting defence minister Saadun al-Dulaimi and various senior officers, the defence ministry said. Sudani was killed near where security forces have been locked in a months-long standoff with militants who have seized control of the city of Fallujah. The government lost control of Fallujah and parts of nearby Ramadi in January, and Iraqi forces have so far failed to retake them.

More recently, a jihadist-led offensive overran swathes of four provinces north of Baghdad and more areas in Anbar, displacing hundreds of thousands of people, alarming the international community and heaping pressure on Maliki as he bids for a third term as premier. Sudani is the latest in a series of senior Iraqi officers to be killed by militants and the highest-ranking casualty since the militant offensive began on June 9. On Dec 29, a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-rigged vehicle near a military convoy in the northern city of Mosul, killing four soldiers, among them a brigadier general, a colonel and a lieutenant colonel. And five senior officers, including a division commander, were among 15 soldiers killed during an operation against militants in Iraq’s Anbar province on Dec 21.

Meanwhile, Iraq’s new parliament postponed its next session for five weeks on Monday, extending the country’s political paralysis in the face of a Sunni Islamist insurgency. Citing the inability of political camps to reach “understanding and agreement” on nominations for the top three posts in government, the office of acting speaker Mehdi al-Hafidh said parliament would not meet again until Aug 12. Putting off the work of reaching consensus for five weeks is a slap in the face to efforts by Iraq’s Shiite clergy, the United States, the United Nations and Iran, who have urged the swift formation of an inclusive government to hold the country together. With no signs that Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki will abandon his bid for a third term, his Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish opponents warn there is a risk that Iraq will fragment along ethnic and sectarian lines. “Things are moving faster than the politicians can make decisions,” a senior Shiite member of parliament told Reuters. The Islamic State, an al-Qaeda offshoot, and a patchwork of Sunni insurgents are holding territory they seized in northern and western Iraq, the majority of it taken last month. Kurds, who run their own autonomous region in northern Iraq, have taken advantage of the chaos to expand their territory.

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