5,000 Iranians volunteer to defend Iraq holy sites from ISIL militants

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More than 5,000 Iranians have pledged to defend Shiite Muslim holy sites in Iraq against Sunni militants who are fighting the Iraqi government, Agence France-Presse reported Tuesday.

The online campaign was launched by the Popular Headquarters for the Defence of Shiite Shrines on the harimshia.org website. Volunteers can sign up on the website or by SMS message.

“Those who sign up are organized into units … and if the order is given by the supreme leader (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei) they will go to Iraq to defend the sites,” the harimshia.org page said, AFP reported.

The campaign follows a call by top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani for volunteers to fight against the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which seeks to establish a caliphate in the Sunni majority regions of Iraq.

Iran is mostly Shiite and it supports the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. President Hassan Rouhani said Saturday that Iran was ready to assist Iraq if Maliki’s government asked, AFP reported.

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