ISIS threatened to attack Shia holy cities of Karbala and Najaf.
The Shia Post reported:
Takfiri terrorists of so-called Islamic State of Syria & Iraq (ISIS) have threatened to attack on the Shia holy cities of Karbala and Najaf, The Shia Post reported.
With Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, firmly under its control, the militant group the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is threatening the takeover of more cities, including the capital, Baghdad, Karbala and Najaf.
“Continue your march as the battle is not yet raging,” ISIS spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani purportedly said in an audio recording posted early Thursday on the group’s media website.
“It will rage in Baghdad, Karbala and Najaf. So be ready for it.”
ISIS held another military parade in northern Iraq Thursday.
Meanwhile, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani called on his Shia followers to take up arms against the Sunni militant insurgency.
Iraq’s most senior Shi’ite Muslim cleric urged followers to take up arms against a full-blown Sunni militant insurgency to topple Shi’ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, escalating a conflict that threatens civil war and a possible break-up of the country.
In a rare intervention at Friday prayers in the holy city of Kerbala, a message from Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who is the highest religious authority for Shi’ites in Iraq, said people should unite to fight back against a lightning advance by militants from the radical Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
Fighters under the black flag of ISIL are sweeping south towards the capital Baghdad in a campaign to recreate a mediaeval caliphate carved out of fragmenting Iraq and Syria that has turned into a widespread rebellion against Maliki.
“People who are capable of carrying arms and fighting the terrorists in defense of their country … should volunteer to join the security forces to achieve this sacred goal,” said Sheikh Abdulmehdi al-Karbalai, delivering Sistani’s message.
Those killed fighting ISIL militants would be martyrs, he said as the faithful chanted in acknowledgement.
U.S. President Barack Obama threatened military strikes against ISIL on Thursday, highlighting the gravity of the group’s threat to redraw borders in an oil-rich region which is sending shockwaves through the Middle East.
Amidst the spreading chaos, Iraqi Kurdish forces seized control of Kirkuk, an oil hub just outside their autonomous enclave that they have long seen as their historical capital, three days after ISIL fighters captured the major city of Mosul.
Karbala and Najaf are two of the holiest cities in Shiism.
More than three million Shiites marked the annual pilgrimage to Karbala amid tight security and attacks on the way to the holy city that killed dozens of people in 2006. (AFP/Mohammed Sawaf)