World Bulletin / News Desk
Iraq's Shi'ite-led government has mobilised militia to send volunteers to the front lines. In Baghdad's Shi'ite slum of Sadr City, thousands of fighters wearing military fatigues marched through the streets.
They carried rocket-propelled grenades, semi-automatic rifles and trucks had mounted long-range rockets, including the new 3-metre "Muqtada 1" missile, named after Shi'ite cleric Muqtada Sadr, who has tens of thousands of followers.
Sadr has yet to throw his fighters into the recent wave of fighting but has criticised Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki for mishandling the crisis.
"These brigades are sending a message of peace. They are the brigades of peace. They are ready to sacrifice their souls and blood for the sake of defending Iraq and its generous people," a man on a podium said as the troops marched by.
Hakim al-Zamili, a lawmaker from Al Ahrar Bloc, affiliated with the Sadr movement, told Anadolu Agency that military parades would be staged also in Kirkuk and Diyala provinces to show presence of troops that will protect Iraqi soil against attacks by ISIL.
BBC analyst Jim Muir, who is based in northern Iraq, said the impressive-looking parade of men in battle fatigues accompanied by serious military hardware will only raise sectarian tensions at at time when the government is under pressure to rally the country together against anti-government rebels.
With stunning speed, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), an offshoot of al Qaeda, has captured swathes of territory in northwest and central Iraq, including the second city, Mosul. They have seized large amounts of weaponry from the fleeing Iraqi army and looted banks.
The fighting has divided Iraq along sectarian lines. The Kurds have expanded their zone in the northeast to include the traditionally Turkmen oil city of Kirkuk, which they regard as part of Kurdistan, while Sunnis have taken ground in the west.
President Barack Obama has offered up to 300 U.S. special forces advisers to help the Iraqi government recapture territory seized by ISIL and other Sunni armed groups across northern and western Iraq.
But he has held off granting a request for air strikes to protect the government and renewed a call for Iraq's long-serving Shi'ite prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, to do more to overcome sectarian divisions that have fuelled resentment among the Sunni minority.
Last Mod: 21 Haziran 2014, 17:55