Islamic State militants gearing up for attack on Baghdad

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Islamic State militants gearing up for attack on Baghdad

Azzaman, August 8, 2014

Militants of the Islamic State (IS) are preparing themselves for an assault on Baghdad, according to remarks by a high-ranking Iraqi Shiite cleric.

Moqtada al-Sadr, who runs his own militias known as Mahdi Army, said he gathered the information from his own intelligence sources.

Sadr’s militia is the largest armed group in southern Iraq. His Mahdi Army fought fiercely U.S. occupation troops in the country.

When IS, which was formerly known as ISIS – the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant – occupied large swathes of northern and western Iraq including major cities in June, Sadr’s Mahdi Army staged parades of his armed men in Baghdad and other cities in southern Iraq.

“According to the intelligence and other type of information in our possession, some of terrorist … organizations have completed their preparations to enter the beloved Baghdad,” the cleric said in a statement.

He said he was ready to coordinate with government troops to defend the capital. He gave no details.

But he said his own militias were in need of supplies and equipment to be capable to fight.

Government troops are engaged in heavy clashes with IS militants in towns and villages in Baghdad suburbs.

Fighting was reported to be going on in areas about 40 kilometers away from Baghdad.

IS militants have also moved closed to Arbil, the capital of the Kurdish autonomous region. They are reported to be 30-minute drive away from the city.

The latest successes of IS have prompted the U.S. to mount airstrikes on its convoys and artillery positions deployed close to Arbil.