Shia cleric in Iraq calls for new force to defend holy sites

Published June 11th, 2014 - 04:00 GMT

Influential Iraqi Shia cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, has called for the formation of a special force to defend religious sites in Iraq.

Sadr, who once ran the powerful Mahdi Army, said in a statement on Wednesday that he was ready to help create “peace units to defend the holy sites of both Muslims and Christians in Iraq, in cooperation with the government.”

The development comes as the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants have not yet been able to infiltrate into areas where the country’s holy sites are located.

However, they have already captured some chunks of land in Nineveh and Salahuddin provinces.

On Tuesday, militants of the al-Qaeda-linked ISIL also took six different areas of Kirkuk Province.

This is while, earlier on Wednesday, Iraqi forces took back the control of a major region near the northern city of Kirkuk, breaking the momentum in a surprise offensive by the most ferocious of militant groups.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said the government would arm citizens who volunteer to fight militants.

The Iraqi premier also asked the United Nations, the European Union, and the Arab League to help the country fight the terrorists.

In March, al-Maliki said Saudi Arabia and Qatar were responsible for the security crisis and growing terrorism in his country, denouncing the Al Saud regime as a major supporter of global terrorism.

Violence has also raged elsewhere in the country with bombings and shootings across Iraq.

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