Iraq’s Sadr claims ISIS planning Baghdad push
The force includes former fighters from his now dissolved Mahdi Army that fought U.S. troops 10 years ago
One of Iraq’s most influential Shiite clerics, Moqtada al-Sadr, claimed Friday that militants were poised to attack Baghdad and he vowed to send his men to defend the capital.
“There are terrorist groups that have completed their preparations for a breakthrough into Baghdad,” the cleric said in a statement.
“We are ready to defend the city, we are ready to supply forces and coordinate with the authorities to face any scenario,” said Sadr, who announced the creation of the Saraya al-Salam (Peace Brigades) group in the aftermath of the jihadist offensive that began in June.
The force includes former fighters from his now dissolved Mahdi Army that fought U.S. troops 10 years ago.
U.S. jets were back in Iraqi skies Friday after President Barack Obama announced he had ordered food drops to civilians stranded in the north after being displaced by jihadist attacks.
He also said he authorized air strikes against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) positions to ensure the safety of U.S. assets in Kurdistan, after the Sunni extremist militants moved to within striking distance of the autonomous Kurdish region.
The Iraqi army chief of staff, Lieutenant General Babaker Zebari, told AFP he thought U.S. jets would extend their campaign against other towns held by ISIS but he did not say which ones.
ISIS has controlled parts of Syria for some time and while it had bases in Iraq, it launched a major offensive on June 9 which saw it conquer much of Iraq’s Sunni heartland and allow for the proclamation of a “caliphate” straddling both countries.
Jihadists stopped their offensive a few dozen kilometers from Baghdad and experts have generally said the capital was safe from a takeover that would require numbers ISIS does not have.
The main flashpoints with large ISIS presence around Baghdad are Jurf al-Sakhr, about 50 kilometers to the south, Fallujah, the same distance to the west, and a string of towns about 70 kilometers to the north.
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