BAGHDAD: Iraq’s outgoing prime minster pledged Monday to turn his country into “a big grave” for ISIS militants and commended security forces who achieved a rare victory over insurgents by ending the siege of a Shiite town.
Nouri al-Maliki made the comments during an unannounced visit to the northern town of Amirli, where he was greeted with hugs. A day earlier, Iraqi forces backed by Iran-allied Shiite militias and U.S. airstrikes broke a two-month siege where some 15,000 Shiite Turkmen had been stranded.
In footage aired on state TV, Maliki was shown sitting at a wooden desk in front of a large poster of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, ordering promotions and awards for those who fought in the battle.
“I salute you for your steadfastness and patience against those beasts and killers,” he told a gathering of fighters as they chanted Shiite religious slogans. “All Iraq will be a grave for those infidels, and we will send all the [ISIS] gang to death.” Hours before the visit, humanitarian aid began flowing to the town.
Shiite Turkmen lawmaker Fawzi Akram al-Tarzi said the U.S. airstrikes and Iranian support for Iraqi forces “have played a positive role in defeating the terrorists,” although he said the airstrikes “came late” in the battle.
Iraqi security forces and Shiite militiamen retook Monday the nearby town of Suleiman Beg following fierce clashes with Sunni militants, Tarzi said.
Also, the U.S. carried out another round of airstrikes against ISIS fighters battling Iraqi and Kurdish forces near the Mosul Dam. U.S. Central Command said U.S. jets had continued their bombardment of ISIS positions Sunday and Monday. “The strikes destroyed three [ISIS] trucks, severely damaged another, destroyed an [ISIS] armed vehicle, and destroyed a mortar position near the Mosul Dam,” the military said in a statement. “All aircraft exited the strike area safely.”