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Insurgents on Killing Spree as Iraqi Leaders Argue

An Iraqi girl mourns the death of her father, an employee of a telephone exchange in Baghdad's Sadr city neighborhood. Four employees of a telephone exchange were shot dead as they arrived for work Sunday.
Wissam al-Okaili
/
Getty Images
An Iraqi girl mourns the death of her father, an employee of a telephone exchange in Baghdad's Sadr city neighborhood. Four employees of a telephone exchange were shot dead as they arrived for work Sunday.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki missed another self-imposed deadline Sunday to name the last three cabinet members to his national unity government, and a session of parliament was postponed as the largest Shiite alliance failed to overcome internal feuding among its members. Meanwhile, Iraqis suffered another day of heavy violence that left at least 36 people dead, most of them shot to death.

The unveiling of Maliki`s National Unity government on May 20 was hailed by the Bush administration as a major step forward. But it left the crucial Security Ministries of Defense and Interior unfilled while Iraq`s political leaders argued about who should run them.

More than two weeks later, they`re still arguing and Maliki`s image as a decisive and effective leader has taken another large hit. After promising that he would forward names to Parliament Sunday, he was forced to back down as 11th-hour squabbling revealed splits within the United Iraqi Alliance, the largest Shiite political block.

Negotiators say the understanding is that a Shiite will be named Interior Minister and a Sunni will become Defense Minister. As it became clear that Sunday`s session was not going to happen, lawmakers described the holdup as coming from Maliki`s own Shiite Alliance. They said his preference for Interior Minister, Farouk al-Araji, was drawing opposition from at least two of the seven Shiite parties that make up the alliance.

While the politicians argued, insurgents went on another killing rampage. Armed men set up a checkpoint on a road about 130 miles north of Baghdad. Officials say they dragged people from the vehicles -- including a minibus full of students -- and shot them to death. In Latifiya, another group of armed men stormed a girl`s school and kidnapped the principal, a teacher and a policeman.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Peter Kenyon is NPR's international correspondent based in Istanbul, Turkey.