News / Middle East

    Iranian Pilot Killed in Iraq Defending Shrine

    In this undated photo posted on a militant website that frequently carries official statements from the Islamic State extremist group, smoke and debris go up in the air as Shiite's Al-Qubba Husseiniya mosque explodes in Mosul.
    In this undated photo posted on a militant website that frequently carries official statements from the Islamic State extremist group, smoke and debris go up in the air as Shiite's Al-Qubba Husseiniya mosque explodes in Mosul.
    VOA News

    An Iranian pilot was killed defending Shi'ite Muslim holy sites in neighboring Iraq, Iran's state news agency said, in the first official report of an Iranian death related to an upsurge in violence there since June.

    Shoja'at Alamdari Mourjani, who was buried in the Iranian city of Shiraz on Friday, was killed while fighting Sunni jihadists in Samarra, north of Baghdad, it said.

    Iran's official IRNA news agency did not say whether the pilot died while flying sorties or fighting on the ground, or whether he was in Samarra of his own initiative or on behalf of the Iranian state.

    Iraq's Shi'ite-led government is fighting an insurgency by Sunni rebels led by an al-Qaida splinter group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), who consider Shi'ites heretics.

    Shi'ite power Iran has said it will not hesitate to defend Shi'ite holy sites in Iraq if necessary, but it has also said Iraq itself is capable of putting down the rebellion.

    Rebels' gains

    ISIL has seized territory across the north and west of Iraq, as well as border posts, oil fields, and the north's largest city, Mosul, since June 10.

    Shi'ite militias have also joined the fray on the Baghdad government's side against the militants.

    Followers of the Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr have formed an army under the name of the al-Salam (Peace) brigades to defend Shi'ite holy shrines. 

    The Shi'ite al-Salam brigades have been stationed in Samarra since ISIL captured large swathes of territory in the north of country.

    Kadhim al-Isawi, commander of the al-Salam brigades, said that his militia were deployed along with other government troops to defend the holy shrine of al-Askari.

    The golden-domed al-Askari mosque in Samarra is one of the holiest shrines in Shiite Islam.

    A 2006 bombing at the same site exacerbated already severe sectarian tensions between Sunnis and Shi'ites, fueling a war that killed tens of thousands of people over the next two years.

    More than 6,000 people have been killed in violence across Iraq this year, as its sectarian balance comes under acute strain from the civil war in neighboring Syria.

    The reports of the pilot's death came as Iranian officials insist their assistance is not in the form of troops, but rather of weapons and equipment if Iraq asks for them.

    The militants' advances and their boasts of animosity toward Shi'ism - a branch of Islam overwhelmingly practiced in Iran - have raised alarm in Tehran.

    Some information for this report provided by Reuters, AFP and AP.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Abram from: Washington
    July 06, 2014 11:33 PM
    It seems that now is the time for Muslims to start emphasizing peace in their teachings. Any religion can do, and a number has done, this as history tells us.

    by: Nwaonyenze from: Owerri
    July 06, 2014 3:04 PM
    Why is Islam a virus to the world's peace?
    Did somebody hear me?

    by: ayatollah from: Texas
    July 06, 2014 2:15 PM
    The Iranian regime, and most Iranians are likely going to be quite ready to kill Sunni Muslims tit for tat. As are the Sunnis, Shias.
    Add in multiple Muslim governments, groups and sects and the result is what we see in the Middle East….chaos.
    Keeping a lid in passions lit off by violence in a region largely uneducated in anything other than religious dogma is going to result in exactly what we're seeing,,,,,,,chaos.
    It is only going to expand, into Saudi out of Yemen, into Jordan out of Syria, into Lebanon out of Gaza and Syria, etc. The best strategy for those on the periphery of this, keep your powder dry and keep them out of yor country if you can. Its only going to continue.

    by: Ali baba from: new york
    July 06, 2014 12:58 PM
    Eventually ISIS will be defeated . They find out that every body is fighting them until they get weaker .

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