UK & World News
Iraq Militants Take Border Post In Bloody Battle
Dozens of Iraqi troops have been killed as Islamist militants seized the al Qaim crossing into Syria, security officials say.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) took the border post, about 200 miles west of Baghdad, after heavy fighting throughout Friday that left some 30 Iraqi troops dead.
Although the Sunni militants have been able to cross the border with some ease for months amid the conflict in neighbouring Syria, control of the crossings makes it simpler to move weapons and other heavy equipment between the two countries.
The mayor of Rawah confirmed militants had captured the town, some 175 miles (275km) northwest of Baghdad.
Hussein AIi al-Aujail said fighters had ransacked government offices there.
ISIS has seized swathes of land in the west of the country and north of the capital Baghdad in recent weeks and despite many Iraqis reportedly flocking to join the fight against the militants the government is on the back foot.
On Friday hundreds of black-clad Shia militants, members of the newly formed "Peace Brigades", marched in the holy city of Najaf, heeding a call to defend holy sites by cleric Muqtada al Sadr.
The cleric once led a powerful militia, the Mahdi army, that battled US troops and was blamed for attacks on Sunni civilians at the height of Iraq's sectarian conflict in 2006 and 2007.
Militiamen also marched at a parade in Kirkuk, where they were called on to "sacrifice" themselves in defence of their country.
In Baghdad, about 20,000 men marched through the Sadr City district with assault rifles, rocket launchers, artillery and missiles. Similar parades took place in the southern cities of Amarah and Basra.
Some carried Iraqi flags, while others held signs with messages including "We sacrifice for you, O Iraq," "No, no to terrorism," and "No, no to America".
The fall of the crossing comes as Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki faces mounting pressure to form an inclusive government or step aside.
A top Shia cleric and the White House have both strongly hinted that Mr Maliki is in part to blame for the worst crisis in Iraq since US troops withdrew at the end of 2011.
Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani, the most respected voice for the country's Shia majority, on Friday joined calls for Mr Maliki to reach out to the Kurdish and Sunni minorities, remarks that could seal his fate.
A day earlier, President Barack Obama challenged him to create a leadership representative of all Iraqis.
"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," Mr Obama said.
Mr Maliki has until the end of this month to form a majority coalition after winning the most seats in April's election.
If he were to step aside, President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, would assume the role until a new prime minister is elected, according to the constitution.
But he has been in Germany for treatment since 2012, so his deputy, Khudeir al Khuzaie, a Shia, would step in