BAGHDAD, June 13 (Xinhua) -- The most influential Shiite cleric in Iraq on Friday called on Iraqis to take up arms to defend their country from insurgent groups who took control of large parts of the country, a representative for the cleric said.
"The situation in Iraq is very serious, and entails those who are able to volunteer to take up arms to defense their homeland," Sheikh Abdul Mehdi al-Karbalai read a fatwa, or religious decision, issued by the Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.
"The defense of the armed forces and other security services for Iraq is a holy defense, and the terrorism is far from the spirit of Islam," al-Karbalai said during the weekly prayer of Friday.
He said Iraq is facing a great challenge and a great danger, and that the terrorists' goal is not to take control of some provinces, such as Nineveh and Salahudin, but they said they are targeting all the provinces, particularly the capital Baghdad, as well as the holy Shiite provinces of Karbala and Najaf.
"Therefore, confronting militant groups is the responsibility of all Iraqis, not for a certain sect or a particular party," he added.
The security deterioration in Iraq started last week when bloody clashes broke out between the Iraqi security forces and hundreds of gunmen who took control of several neighborhoods in western part of Mosul and expanded later to other areas and provinces after the Iraqi security forces withdrew from the city.