Iraq's most revered Shiite cleric today called for unity among the country's forces battling the Islamic State group after most of the Iran-backed Shiite militias pulled out of the offensive in the militant-held city of Tikrit in protest over US airstrikes there.
Iraq`s most important Shi`ite religious leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, called on Friday for greater professionalism and planning by government forces and allied militias in fighting Islamic State insurgents.
As Iraq struggles to protect its ancient sites and heritage from the Islamic State group, the United States returned some 60 historical items to the country on Monday, many dating to thousands of years ago.
A top Iraqi army officer said on Monday that Iraqi troops need US-led coalition air support to recapture the city of Tikrit, as a major offensive against the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group stalled after two weeks.
Iraqi security forces and militias fought their way into Saddam Hussein`s home city of Tikrit on Wednesday, advancing from the north and south in their biggest counter-offensive so far against Islamic State militants.
The US-led coalition carrying out air strikes against the Islamic State group must try to protect archaeological sites being destroyed by the jihadists, Iraq's tourism and antiquities minister said on Sunday.
Islamic State militants have destroyed ancient remains of the 2,000-year-old city of Hatra in northern Iraq, officials said on Saturday, in their latest attack on Iraqi antiquities which the United Nations condemned as barbarism.
Iraq's minister of tourism and antiquities says the government is investigating reports that the ancient archaeological site of Hatra in northwestern Iraq is being demolished by militants from the Islamic State group.