Iraq Militia Parades as Insurgents Seize Crossing

Thousands of heavily-armed Shiite militiamen paraded through several Iraqi cities Saturday as Sunni militants seized two strategically located towns in what appeared to be a new offensive in western Anbar province.

The capture of the two towns — Qaim on the Syrian border Friday and Rawah along the Euphrates River on Saturday— dealt another blow to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government, which has struggled to push back against Islamic extremists and allied militants who have seized large swaths of the country’s north, including the second-largest city of Mosul.

But while al-Maliki has come under mounting pressure to reach out to disaffected Kurds and Sunnis, the display of heavy weapons by the Shiite fighters indicated that forces beyond Baghdad’s control may be pushing the conflict toward a sectarian showdown.

READ MORE: http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/top-shiite-cleric-calls-government-iraq-24236581