Photograph: Freeimages.com/Lukasz Brzozowski

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi vowed Tuesday to punish those responsible for sectarian attacks as he visited an eastern city that has seen heightened Sunni-Shia tensions over the past week.

At least six Sunni mosques have been blown up in al-Muqdadiyeh in the last week, in apparent retaliation for bombings that killed 25 people at a popular cafe.

Touring the city in Diyala province, al-Abadi praised security forces who, he said, had arrested those responsible for the attacks.

"We will not permit anyone to bear arms outside the law," al-Abadi said. "We consider any unlawful arms to be weapons of the Daesh [Islamic State] gangs and to further their goals."

There have been repeated reports of abuses by pro-government Shiite militias in Diyala, a religiously mixed province north-east of Baghdad, since the Sunni extremist Islamic State captured large areas of northern Iraq in mid-2014.

Last year Human Rights Watch said that 3,000 people had fled al-Muqdadiyeh and been prevented from returning. The group also reported abductions and executions of Sunni civilians.

The Alliance of National Forces, a Sunni entity, earlier announced a one-day boycott of the parliament and government in protest at the al-Muqdadiyeh incidents.

Ahmmed al-Messary, an alliance leader, said in press statements that the alliance would seek international protection for Diyala.

Sectarian abuses by Shiite militias under al-Abadi's predecessor Nuri al-Maliki, as well as harsh security measures that mainly targeted Sunnis, have been seen as helping Islamic State gain support from Sunni civilians.

Al-Abadi promised to wipe out the abuses when he gained power, with international backing, in September 2014.

Related stories

At least 30 killed in Iraq attack claimed by Islamic State

Iraq's Shiite militias launch offensive west of Mosul

12 killed, 26 wounded in Baghdad car bombing

Battle for Mosul: Iraqi forces advance despite guerilla attacks

Latest news

Plane crashes at airport in Melbourne

A five-passenger charter plane has crashed into a building next to Essendon Airport in Melbourne, with witnesses reporting explosions, fire and black smoke, police said Tuesday.

Air France pilots give green light to lower cost subsidiary

Members of Air France's main pilots union on Monday voted to accept the creation of a new lower cost subsidiary that the flag carrier hopes will help it compete on long-haul routes.

US Army General McMaster tapped as Trump's national security advisor

Army Lieutenant General HR McMaster will be the new White House national security advisor, US President Donald Trump told reporters Monday.

Greece's creditors want sweeping reforms before next bailout payment

Greece must make sweeping reforms to its labour market, pension system and collective bargaining agreements in order to receive its next vital bailout payment, the country's European creditors said Monday.

President wants to recall "politically appointed ambassadors", can't do it without gov't

President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic said that many politically appointed Croatian ambassadors were not carrying out state policies but that she could not replace them without the government to appoint career diplomats who would fight for Croatia's interests.

Izetbegovic hopes ICJ will confirm Serbia's responsibility for genocide

The Bosniak member of the tripartite presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bakir Izetbegovic, on Monday rejected criticism stirred up by the announcement that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) would be requested to review its judgement made after Bosnia sued Serbia for genocide.

British lawmakers locked in heated debate over Trump's state visit

Allowing US President Donald Trump to visit Britain would be akin to "pimping out the Queen," one British lawmaker said Monday during a heated debate in British parliament over two petitions concerning the US leader's future state visit.

Vitaly Churkin, Russia's sharp-tongued ambassador to the UN, dies

Russia's long-time ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, died in New York on Monday, following a career that spanned four decades and saw Russia emerge from the Soviet Union and experience many turbulent events in its relations with the West.

French police raid National Front over European Parliament payments

France's far-right National Front Monday said that investigators had searched its offices in relation to allegations that it misused European Parliament funds.

Unhappy Presidents' Day: Trump still manoeuvring after Sweden comment

Donald Trump used his first Presidents' Day in office to continue trying to talk his way out of comments implying a terrorist attack in Sweden that never happened.

Croatia supports Kosovo's territorial integrity - Grabar-Kitarovic

Croatia's President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic on Monday expressed the support to Kosovo's territorial integrity and Euro-Atlantic aspirations during her talks with the visiting Kosovo Foreign Minister Enver Hoxhaj.

Petrov rules out early parliamentary election

Parliament Speaker and Bridge party leader Bozo Petrov on Monday dismissed speculation about a reshuffle of the parliamentary majority, saying an early election was likelier, but that right now he did not see "such a scenario."