Iraqis say they foiled IS plan to attack revered shrines

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraqi intelligence officials said Sunday they foiled an attempt by the Islamic State group to attack revered Shiite shrines and the sect’s spiritual leader.

The IS plan was to launch a series of suicide attacks in Karbala and Najaf that house the shrines as well as the home of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, two officers told The Associated Press.

The simultaneous airstrikes by Iraqi and Russian air forces two weeks ago hit gatherings of suicide bombers in the Iraqi town of Qaim and in Syria’s Mayadeen area, both under IS control.

They gave no details on casualties.

Recent meetings with the Russians yielded increased intelligence sharing between the two nations, they said.

Both spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

Early this month, IS suffered a major blow as US-backed Iraqi troops captured the northern city of Mosul after nine months of highly destructive warfare. The militants now control small towns, mainly near the border with Syria.

Empty shops in Najaf, Iraq, once a large draw for Iranian pilgrims. (photo credit: AP/Khalid Mohammed)

IS took over Iraq’s second-largest city in summer 2014 when it conquered much of northern and western Iraq. Along with territories in Syria, the group declared a caliphate and governed according to a harsh and violent interpretation of Islamic law.

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