Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki Saturday ordered his troops to make a stand against advancing Sunni militants at Samarra, home to a revered Shiite mosque.
"Samarra will be the starting point, the gathering station of our troops to cleanse every inch that was desecrated by the footsteps of those traitors," Maliki said in broadcast remarks, CNN reported.
The command came as Iraqi troops retook areas in the north earlier seized by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. As much as 70 percent of the province where Samarra is located, Salaheddin, is in ISIS hands. Iraqi officials reported hundreds of insurgents killed.
Samara Operations Cmdr. Ali al-Fraiji said 100 security forces are trapped at Speicher Air Force Base in Tikrit, Iraqinews.com reported.
Iraq's top Shiite authority has called on Iraqis to unite against the insurgents, Rudaw.net reported.
"Citizens who are able to bear arms and fight terrorists, defending their country and their people and their holy places, should volunteer and join the security forces to achieve this holy purpose," Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani said in a statement read during Friday prayers.
Iraqinews.com reported reported 8,000 people have offered to join security forces in Najaf.
“They came due to the call of the Religious Authority to defend Iraq,” the Web site reported.