Iraq send­ing 4,000 vol­un­teers to help in Ra­madi

The Covington News - - WORLD -

BAGH­DAD (AP) — Iraq is air­lift­ing some 4,000 vol­un­teers to an em­bat­tled city west of Bagh­dad to help bol­ster gov­ern­ment forces locked in a run­ning bat­tle with Sunni mil­i­tants there, au­thor­i­ties said Sat­ur­day.

Around 2,500 of the vol­un­teers ar­rived in Ra­madi, lo­cated 115 kilo­me­ters (70 miles) west of the cap­i­tal, on Fri­day and are to be joined by the re­main­ing 1,500 on Sat­ur­day, said Gen. Rasheed Flayeh, the com­man­der of op­er­a­tions in An­bar prov­ince. The men are be­ing fer­ried out to Ra­madi from Bagh­dad by he­li­copter, he added.

The vast ma­jor­ity of vol­un­teers are Shi­ites who have an­swered a call from the coun­try’s top Shi­ite cleric, Ay­a­tol­lah Ali al-Sis­tani, to de­fend Iraq from the mil­i­tants who have over­run of much of the coun­try’s north and west over the past month. The Sunni mil­i­tant blitz is led by the Is­lamic State ex­trem­ist group, which has uni­lat­er­ally de­clared the es­tab­lish­ment of an Is­lamic state ruled by Shariah law in the ter­ri­tory it con­trols strad­dling the Iraq-Syria bor­der.

The gov­ern­ment’s reliance on Shi­ite mili­tias — who have de­ployed in size­able num­bers to sev­eral ci­ties across the coun­try — to help counter the threat from Sunni mil­i­tants has ramped up sec­tar­ian ten­sions, and helped fuel fears that Iraq could re­turn to the whole­sale sec­tar­ian blood­let­ting that en­gulfed the coun­try in 2006 and 2007.

There are al­ready wor­ry­ing signs of such vi­o­lence.

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