Iran sent 2,000 advance troops to Iraq to help fight an extreme jihadist insurgency effectively seizing control of major cities in the country, a senior Iraqi official told The Guardian on Saturday.

Around 1,500 basiji forces crossed the border into Khanaqin, a town in central Diyala province on Friday, while another 500 entered the Badra Jassan area in Wasat province overnight, according to the official, reported the British news website.

It confirmed Friday that Major General Qassem Suleimani, head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ elite Quds Force, had arrived to Baghdad to oversee defense operations in the capital.

Iranian President Hassan Rowhani announced Saturday that his country was ready to help Iraq fight the al-Qaeda-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an extremist-sunni jihadist group effectively controlling major cities in the country.

Additionally, Rowhani declared that he would join forces with long-term enemy U.S. to defeat ISIS militants and local armed men fighting among their ranks.

“We can think about it if we see America starts confronting the terrorist groups in Iraq or elsewhere,” Rowhani said when asked if Tehran would collaborate with Washington, Reuters reported Saturday.

Arming civilians

Meanwhile, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki called on Iraqi citizens to take up arms and defend their country against the insurgency. Other shiite leaders also urged civilians to stand up and defend.

Maliki said his cabinet “praises the willingness of the citizens and the sons of the tribes to volunteer and carry weapons … to defend the homeland and defeat terrorism,” he said in a statement broadcast on state television last Tuesday.

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the highest religious authority for Shiites, urged his followers on Friday to take up arms against Sunni militants advancing toward Baghdad.

Thousands of Shiites answered the call to fight on Saturday, and joined security forces to fight ISIS militants who are advancing in the country with an extreme religious rule.

source: alarabiya.net