Volunteers who have joined the Iraqi Army to fight against the predominantly Sunni militants, who have taken over Mosul and other Northern provinces, chant slogans in Karbala, southwest of Baghdad, June 13, 2014. REUTERS/Mushtaq Muhammed
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Iraq's most senior Shiite Muslim authority urged followers to take up arms against a full-blown Sunni militant insurgency to topple Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, escalating a conflict that threatens civil war and a possible break-up of the country.It had long been known that Mosul, a city of two million people, harboured not just ISIS but also the Baathist militant group the Naqshbandi Army, believed to be headed by Ezzat Ibrahim al Douri, a former close aide to Saddam.On the advance, a member of the Mujahideen Army, consisting of ex-military officers and more moderate Islamists, said: "We were contacted by ISIS around three days before the attack on Mosul asking us to join them.ISIS fighters eventually withdrew from Jalawla and well-organised Kurdish Peshmerga fighters took over.ISIS has battled rival rebel factions in Syria for months and occasionally taken on President Bashar Assad's forces.Maliki's army already lost control of much of the Euphrates valley west of the capital to ISIS last year.
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