Iraq’s most senior Shia cleric has urged his followers to rise up against the Sunni-led insurgents, The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, (ISIL), who have taken control of much of northern Iraq.
Sheik Abdul-Mahdi al-Karbalaie, who is the representative of Iran’s Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, spoke during a Friday sermon in the southern Shi’ite province of Kerbala.
“From Kerbala, we call on all citizens who can carry weapons and fight the terrorists in defence of their country, its people and its holy sites to volunteer and join the security forces to fulfill this sacred goal,” he said.
It comes as the insurgents threaten to march south to the capital Baghdad and onto Shia regions further south.
Around a thousand recruits from Kerbala were heading to Baghdad on Friday to reinforce Iraqi troops.
One said: “We are the youth of Kerbala and we are going to fight the Islamic state militants to defend our homeland and territories. ISIL can not threaten us. We will sacrifice our lives for the land of Iraq.”