Iraq’s parliament has chosen the Kurdish politician Fuad Massoum as its new president, as violence continued to rock the capital and Sunni fighters battled the Iraqi army in the north of the country.
Massoum was elected on Thursday by an overwhelming majority of 211 votes to 17, after a late-night deal was struck by Kurdish parties to support his bid..
However, Massoum faces the task of helping steer the country through sectarian violence, the rise of the Islamic State group in the north of the country, and ongoing violence in the capital.
Two car bombs exploded in Baghdad hours after his election, killing 21 people and injuring many more. The bombs targeted the central area of Karradah, as people were gathering to break their daily fast in the month of Ramadan.
Earlier in the day, at least 60 people died in clashes when suicide bombers and fighters attacked a bus transferring convicts from a prison north of Baghdad, according to Iraqi police.
Massoum’s election was however a step towards choosing a stable government, and could pave the way for a deal on the much more poweful position of prime minister.
The incumbent, Nouri al-Maliki, won elections earlier this year but has faced growing criticism about his sectarian poilicies and his efforts to combat the Islamic State group’s advances in the north and the west of the country.
The Shia prime minister has accused mainstream politicians from the Sunni Arab minority of condoning the Islamic State offensive and of “dancing in the blood” of the onslaught’s victims.
On Thursday, the Islamic State said it blew up the Younis mosque in Mosul the mosque as it had become a place of apostasy and not prayer.
The mosque was built on a site that dated back to the eighth century BC which was said to be the burial place of the prophet Jonah, or Younis, who in stories from both the Bible and Qur’an was swallowed by a whale.