BAGHDAD - Iraqi premier Nuri al-Maliki Wednesday accused the country's autonomous Kurdish region of harbouring jihadists, further ratcheting up tension despite calls for Iraq's leaders to unite against a Sunni militant offensive.
And in scenes reminiscent of the country's brutal sectarian war of 2006-07, when tens of thousands were killed, the authorities found the bodies of 53 men who had been bound and executed in a confessionally-mixed province south of Baghdad.
The crisis triggered by a jihadist-led offensive that started exactly a month ago and soon overran swathes of five provinces north and west of Baghdad, has displaced hundreds of thousands of people and heaped pressure on Maliki as he bids for a third term.
The incumbent on Wednesday appeared to damage his efforts to retain his post by turning on Kurdish leaders whose support he needs, accusing them of hosting militant groups behind the onslaught.
"Honestly, we cannot be silent over this and we cannot be silent over Arbil being a headquarters for Daash, and the Baath, and Al-Qaeda and terrorist operations," Maliki said in his weekly televised address.
Daash is the former Arabic acronym for the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group, which Kurdish forces are fighting against in north Iraq, while Baath refers to the banned party of executed dictator Saddam Hussein, whose regime killed tens of thousands of Kurds.
"They (militant groups) will lose, and their host will lose also because he did not provide an example of patriotic partnership," the premier said.
Though Kurdish parliamentary backing is not necessary to form a government, the Kurds are seen as crucial to maintaining a united front against insurgents led by the IS.
Maliki's remarks were the latest example of persistent disunity among Iraq's politicians despite calls from international powers and influential Iraqi clerics for the country's leaders to come together.
Bickering blocs have so far failed to form a government, more than two months after April 30 polls, with little sign of an agreement in sight.
An earlier parliamentary session ended in disarray as lawmakers traded threats and walked out.
The country's leaders typically agree key government positions in a package, with the post of speaker generally going to a Sunni Arab, the premiership to a Shiite Arab and the presidency to a Kurd.