It was a dramatic show of force by Iraq's Shiite militias.
With assault rifles and rocket launchers in tow, some 20,000 men wearing military uniform descended on Baghdad. They were answering a call by a top Shiite cleric to stage a huge military parade. (Via RT)
As The Telegraph reports: “Their message is unspoken, but as loud and clear as the chants – any Sunni who is thinking of supporting Isis can expect Shia gunmen at his door.”
The BBC notes these men come from the same Iran-backed militia — known as Iraq's Mahdi Army — that fought American troops for years. It was considered the greatest threat to Iraq’s security before it disbanded in 2008.
Many Iraqi citizens fear the resurgence of these Shiite militants as much as they do the rapid advance of the Sunni extremists.
“These images will worry some people. They’ll remind them of the Mahdi Army and the days of sectarian violence in 2006, 2007, and 2008.” (Via Al Jazeera)
Iraq’s government is now relying on these Shiite militias to fill the void left behind by Iraqi security forces who fled their posts in the face of a much smaller force of ISIS militants.
Fighters led by ISIS reportedly killed over 30 Iraqi troops Saturday while seizing a strategically important border crossing to Syria. The New York Times described the scene as a “desperate, bloody struggle in which Iraqi Army troops were overwhelmed by 'hundreds' of fighters.”
This means ISIS fighters now can move freely along the nearly 400-mile border. They already control parts of Anbar province and Mosul but their stated goal is to take the capital of Baghdad. (Via ITN)
According to the Iraq Body Count, which monitors deaths in the country, more than 2,800 civilians have died in the violence this month.