Iraq defense minister asks senior Shia cleric to help army
Iraq’s Defense Minister Khalid al-Obeidi has requested support for the Iraqi armed forces from the country’s most senior Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.
The Iraqi Defense Ministry said in a statement issued on Monday that “Khaled al-Obeidi visited this morning the shrine of Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib (peace be upon him) with the governor of Najaf, Adnan Zurfi, and a number of officers,” online newspaper Iraqi News reported on Monday.
“After the visit, Obeidi delivered a message to the representative of the highest religious authority, Ali al-Sistani, requesting support for the armed forces,” the ministry added in the statement.
Obeidi arrived in the province of Najaf on Monday morning and discussed the province’s security situation with Zurfi.
The development came as Iraqi security forces along with Shia volunteer fighters managed to liberate a number of strategic sites in the Hamrin Mountains area in northeastern Iraq.
“The forces have killed dozens of terrorists during fierce clashes in the area,” a senior leader of the Shia volunteer forces said.
A member of the Iraqi forces stands on an armed vehicle and checks the horizon with binoculars as they patrol in the Karma district, west of the capital, Baghdad, on April 20, 2015. © AFP
In another development on Monday, the security forces regained control of seven protection towers in the oil refinery of Baiji in the northern province of Salahuddin, Iraqi state television reported.
“Security forces managed to regain control over seven protection towers in Baiji’s refinery,” state television announced, adding, “The forces also managed to expel ISIL militants from the gates of al-Haskah and Dijla and force them to withdraw.”
Also, the government troops backed by Shia and Sunni volunteer fighters took control of the Alas oilfields, located northeast of Tikrit, the provincial capital of Salahuddin province, Iraqi news website Nahrain Net reported.
The northern and western parts of Iraq have been in chaos since ISIL started its campaign of terror in early June 2014. The terrorists are in control of the city of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, and they have swept through parts of the country’s heartland.
Since then, Iraq’s army has been joined by Kurdish forces as well as Shia and Sunni volunteers in operations to drive the ISIL terrorists out of the areas they have seized.