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Maliki Meets Leaders Amid Rising Sectarian Violence In Iraq

  • RFE/RL

An Iraqi soldier stands guard on May 30 at the site of a bomb blast in Baghdad, which has been plagued by sectarian violence over the past month.

An Iraqi soldier stands guard on May 30 at the site of a bomb blast in Baghdad, which has been plagued by sectarian violence over the past month.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has met with community leaders from across Iraq's sectarian divide in a bid to stop a rise in sectarian killings.

No details emerged following the meeting in Baghdad on June 1.

It comes after the United Nations announced more than 1,000 people were killed in violence in Iraq in May.

This week multiple bombings battered Shi'ite and Sunni areas of Baghdad, killing nearly 100 people.

Analysts say the violence reflects the worsening tensions between Iraq's Shi'ite-led government and the Sunni minority, who complain they are being discriminated against.

Al Qaeda Cell Captured

Meanwhile, Iraq's Defense Ministry said on June 1 that it had captured an Al Qaeda cell, which was preparing to manufacture poison gases to attack Iraqi security forces but also to ship overseas for assaults in Europe and the United States.

Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammed Al-Askari told reporters that five men had been apprehended before they could manufacture any gas or chemical weapons in makeshift factories in Baghdad and another province.

"There are some confessions about[having] organized cells to smuggle [the poison] outside Iraq through a neighboring country in order to target Europe, America and North America," he said. "We are working with intelligence services inside and outside Iraq and we were able to detain these cells."

Officials showed reporters three men dressed in yellow jumpsuits with their heads covered by masks.

They also displayed bottles of chemicals and other laboratory equipment as well as remote-controlled toy helicopters authorities said the men planned to use to disperse the gas.

During the height of the Iraq war, Al Qaeda in Iraq also used chlorine gas in its explosives to poison areas where the bombs detonated.

Former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein used chemical gas to attack Iraqi Kurdish villages in the north.

With reporting by Reuters and AP
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