ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – The Iraqi Parliament’s Security and Defense committee warned that the Islamic State (IS) is preparing to launch a major offensive on the city of Samarra in Salahaddin Province, home to a number of Shia holy sites in northern Baghdad.
The warning came shortly after the Iranian-backed Shia Hashd al-Shaabi repelled an attack by gunmen tried to infiltrate Samarra two days ago, killing and wounding several fighters.
Samarra is a significant landmark for Shia Muslims as it includes the mausoleums of two notable Shia imams who were killed in 2006, igniting a sectarian conflict in the country.
The head of the Security and Defense Committee in the Iraqi Parliament, Hakim Zamli, in a press conference held in Samarra, said the recent attack was one of the most of the violent ones carried out by the jihadist group in the southern city.
Zamli added that three members of Hashd al-Shaabi, also known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), were killed and several more injured in the clashes.
He warned that the holy areas in the south of Samarra had become a haven for IS sleeper cells that use the security vacuum as military units are deployed across the region to carry out attacks.
Zamli mentioned that IS was planning to enter Samarra and target religious shrines, especially those of Shia Muslims.
Recently, 11,000 forces were deployed in the desert area, 70 kilometers south of Samarra.
“The area needs a substantial security presence to protect it,” Zamili said. “When deploying troops, the Defense and Interior ministries need to consider Samarra due to the significance.”
A week ago, the Iraqi Parliament approved a bill to consider the city of Samarra in the province of Salahuddin as the “Islamic” capital of the country and the province of Babylon as the capital of “civilization.”
Editing by Nadia Riva