National News

Iraqi leader retires 2 senior security officers

By Qassim Abdul-Zahra, The Associated Press

BAGHDAD - Iraq's prime minister removed the chief of the army's ground forces and the head of the federal police from their posts Saturday as part of his promised shakeup in the security forces following their near collapse in the face of a militant blitz last month, an official said.

Military spokesman Lt. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi says Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki signed the papers to retire Lt. Gen. Ali Ghaidan, commander of the army's ground forces, and Lt. Gen. Mohsen al-Kaabi, the chief of the federal police. Al-Moussawi says both men leave their jobs with their pensions. No replacements have been named.

Iraqi military forces in the city of Mosul and across much of the country's north melted away in the face of the militant offensive spearheaded by the Islamic State extremist group. Shiite militiamen and volunteers have had to fill the void as the regular army struggles to regroup.

Last month, al-Maliki retired three generals who had been deployed in Mosul and ordered legal proceedings against them. He also dismissed a brigadier general and ordered his court martial in absentia. He said he planned to retire off or court martial more senior officers, but gave no details.

Al-Maliki has also vowed to bring the full weight of military law, including the execution of deserters, on anyone who is found out to have fled the battle.

The Islamic extremists have destroyed at least 10 ancient shrines and Shiite mosques in territory they have seized in northern Iraq, according images posted online and residents.

A series of 21 photographs posted on a website that frequently carries official statements from the Islamic State extremist group document the destruction in Mosul and the town of Tal Afar. Some of the photos show bulldozers plowing through walls, while others show explosives demolishing the buildings in a cloud of smoke and rubble.

Residents from both Mosul and Tal Afar confirmed the destruction of the sites.

Sunni extremists consider Shiites Muslims heretics, and the veneration of saints apostasy.

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