BAGHDAD (AP) -- A representative for Iraq's top Shiite cleric has called on Iraqis to defend their country, saying those who are able should join the security forces to battle the militants.
Sheik Abdul-Mahdi al-Karbalaie made the comments during Friday prayers. He represents Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most revered Shiite spiritual leader in Iraq.
Al-Karbalaie says it is "a duty" that citizens defend against "the dangers threatening Iraq."
His comments come as militants who seized large swaths of Iraq's Sunni heartland with lightning advances this week pushed into an ethnically mixed province and captured two towns northeast of Baghdad.