Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi Friday thanked Iraq’s top Shiite cleric for his role in the war against militants, crediting him with saving the country and setting the stage for victory.
Three days after Mosul fell to the ISIL in 2014, Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Ali al-Sistani called on Iraqis to volunteer to fight the militants, a step that helped to halt their sweeping offensive.
Abadi issued a statement expressing his “deep thanks and gratitude” to Sistani for “his great and continuing support to the heroic fighters.”
The cleric’s 2014 call for volunteers “saved Iraq and paved the way for victory” over ISIL, Abadi said
Abadi’s message comes as the battle to retake second city Mosul nears its conclusion.
Sayyed Sistani made the call via a representative speaking at Friday prayers on June 13, 2014, days after multiple Iraqi divisions collapsed in the face of the ISIL assault in the north.
“Citizens who are able to bear arms and fight terrorists, defending their country and their people and their holy places, should volunteer and join the security forces to achieve this holy purpose,” he said.
It sparked a flood of volunteers who were organized under what became known as the Hashed al-Shaabi, or Popular Mobilization forces — an umbrella group for pro-government paramilitaries that is officially under the command of the country’s premier.