Sistani Urges End to Militancy

Sistani Urges End to Militancy Sistani Urges End to Militancy

Iraq’s top Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, on Friday urged the government to prevent militant attacks and condemned bombings claimed by Islamic State and retaliatory assaults this week on Sunni mosques in the province of Diyala.

Ayatollah Sistani has millions of followers in Iraq and elsewhere and wields authority that few Iraqi politicians would openly challenge, Reuters reported.

“We place full responsibility on the government security forces for (the attacks’) repetition and to not permit the presence of militants outside the framework of the state,” his spokesman, Sheikh Abdul Mehdi Karbala’i, said in a sermon broadcast on state television.

At least seven Sunni mosques and dozens of shops in the town of Muqdadiya were firebombed on Tuesday, a day after 23 people were killed there in two blasts targeting Shia militia fighters.

Iraqi officials declared victory over the insurgents in Diyala, nearly a year ago after security forces and Shia militias drove them out of towns and villages there.

The rise of radical Sunni group Islamic State has exacerbated a long-running sectarian conflict in Iraq, mostly between the Shia majority and minority Sunnis.

A surge in violence could undermine efforts by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, a moderate Shia Islamist, to dislodge the group from areas in the north and west that they seized in 2014. Abadi visited Muqdadiya on Thursday to meet with security and municipal officials.