Iraqi prime minister Nouri Al-Maliki’s grip on power is loosening as he struggles to maintain stability in the country.

On 11 January, at least three bombs were set off across the country in Yathrib, Diyala and Western Baghdad, killing eight. It follows a series of bomb explosions across the country over the past week with the death toll exceeding 50.

To add to his woes, the Kurds have refused to hand over Sunni vice-president Tarek `l-Hashimi, who has an arrest warrant issued for his links to terrorism. Al-Hashimi has been accused of funding a death squad targeting Shia figures.

Al-Hashimi has refused to stand trial in Baghdad where he claims the justice system is under the control of Maliki.

Fresh fears of a sectarian conflict have emerged, with many scared of a civil war. Maliki recently backed out of threats to fire Sunni ministers belonging to the Iraqiya bloc, who have been boycotting the cabinet over Al-Hashimi’s arrest warrant. Instead he declared on 4 January that they are on extended leave and passed their mandates and responsibilities to other members of the cabinet.

Members of the Iraqiya bloc did not participate in the opening of the first parliamentary session on 10 January.