Iraq Watch: Top Shiite cleric urges politicians to set aside differences, Iraqi forces try to retake Tikrit

McClatchy Washington BureauJune 27, 2014 


Officials leave the provincial government building in Najaf, Iraq under a giant portrait of Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.


— Iraq’s top Shia cleric on Friday stressed the need for Iraqi politicians to put aside their differences in order to choose the next prime minister before a new parliament convenes next week.

Agreeing on new leaders_a prime minister as well as a president and a speaker of parliament_ will be a “prelude to the political solution that everyone seeks” in Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani said through a representative during Friday prayers in the holy city of Karbala.

Sistani said terrorists are trying to “dismantle and divide” Iraq, but “the Iraqi people in all walks of life, Arabs and Turkmen and Christians, are standing shoulder to shoulder against the terrorist strangers.”

He called on all Iraqi citizens to help the growing number of families displaced by the fighting by providing food and shelter for them.

Today’s other developments in Iraq:

-Iraqi forces battled Sunni militants on Friday for control of Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s hometown. Iraqi forces launched an airborne assault on rebel-held Tikrit on Thursday with commandos flown into a stadium in helicopters, at least one of which crashed after taking fire from insurgents who have seized northern cities, Reuters reports. Brigadier General Fadel Birwari, commander of Iraq’s special forces, said the assault was the start of the process of retaking Tikrit, Samarra and Baijji from the radical Sunni group, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

- Iraqi insurgents executed at least 160 captives earlier this month in the northern city of Tikrit, Human Rights Watch said Friday, citing an analysis of satellite imagery and grisly photos released by the militants.

- 7 people were killed, 34 injured when a suicide bomber exploded himself in Al Kazimia district in Baghdad on Wednesday, according to al-Jazeera.

- Many Iranians, alarmed by the escalating violence in neighboring Iraq, want their country’s military to intervene in the fight against ISIS, according to this report in The Guardian.

- Russia’s U.N. ambassador says there is a real prospect of a terrorist state springing up from Syria's second-largest city Aleppo to Iraq's capital Baghdad, the Associated Press reports.

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