A general view shows Iraqi Shiite Muslims praying at the Great Mosque of Kufa in the city of the same name, 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) northeast of Iraq's central shrine city of Najaf on June 18, 2017 during the holy fasting month of Ramadan. (AFP Photo)
BAGHDAD, July 30 (Xinhua) -- The Iraqi intelligence service thwarted a plot by the IS militant group to carry out attacks against Shiite shrines and the house of the most revered spiritual Shiite leader in Iraq, an official newspaper reported on Sunday.
"The terrorist Daesh (IS group) was prepared for three separate operations led by terrorists from outside Iraq to attack the shrines of Shiite Imams in the provinces of Karbala, Najaf and Samarra, and the residency of the top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Najaf," the state-owned al-Sabah newspaper quoted Abu Ali al-Basri, head of intelligence apparatus of the Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS), as saying.
The group also aimed at attacking a mosque in the town of Kufa near Najaf and some crowded areas in the oil-hub city of Basra in southern Iraq, with the objective of igniting sectarian strife between the Shiite and Sunni Muslims, according to al-Basri.
"The attacks were designed to be carried out by car bombers and dozens of suicide bombers of different nationalities in cooperation with gangs of smuggling to facilitate the entry of weapons and suicide bombers into the targeted provinces," al-Basri said.
The intelligence information was presented to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of Iraqi forces, and to the Interior Minister Qassim al-Aaraji, to get the orders to carry out preemptive airstrikes against the terrorists' bases by the Iraqi F-16 jets, just hours before moving to their targets, the newspaper said.
The Iraqi warplanes destroyed seven IS posts, where dozens of IS militants and their booby-trapped vehicles were gathering, in the IS-held areas of Mayadeen inside Syria and the Iraqi town of al-Qaim near the border with Syria, leaving dozens of IS militants killed, according to al-Basri.
The holy Shiite city of Karbala, about 110 km south of Baghdad, is home to a shrine that includes Imams Hussein and Abbas, while Najaf, some 160 km south of Baghdad, is home to the shrine of Imam Ali, as well as the house of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.
Samarra, some 120 km north of Baghdad, is home to a shrine that includes the two Imams of Ali al-Hadi and Hassan al-Askari.
"The terrorist scheme is the most dangerous in the history of Iraq which, if succeeded, would drag Iraq into an unknown dark tunnel and a spiral of violence and blood, but the vigilance of the heroic security men prevented this," it added.
On July 10, Abadi officially declared Mosul's liberation from IS rule after nearly nine months of fierce fighting to dislodge the extremist militants from their last major stronghold in Iraq. The liberation of Mosul was a big blow to the extremist group in Iraq.