Iraq 'will be a big grave for IS'
Iraq's outgoing prime minster has pledged to turn his country into "a big grave" for Sunni militants from the Islamic State (IS) group and commended security forces who achieved a rare victory over insurgents by ending the siege of a Shiite town.
Nouri Maliki made the comments during an unannounced visit to the northern community of Amirli, where he was greeted with hugs. A day earlier, Iraqi forces backed by Iran-allied Shiite militias and US airstrikes broke a two-month siege of the town where 5,000 Shiite Turkmens had been stranded.
In footage aired on state TV, Mr Maliki was shown sitting at a wooden desk in front of a large poster of Shiite leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistsani, ordering promotions and awards for those who fought in the battle.
"I salute you for your steadfastness and patience against those beasts and killers," he told a gathering of fighters. He vowed to root out Sunni militants from areas they control in the country.
"All Iraq will be a grave for those infidels, and we will send all the IS gang to death," he added.
Hours before the visit, humanitarian aid began flowing to the town.
Four trucks loaded with food and medicine arrived after being sent by the Iraqi government and the Iraqi Red Crescent, according to Ali al-Bayati, who heads the aid organisation called the Turkmen Saving Foundation. Soldiers began bringing food to families in their houses last night.
"The situation is getting back to normal, but gradually," Mr al-Bayati said. "Some people have come out from their houses and walked in the street. Shops are still closed, but people are happy to see their city secured by Iraqi security forces."
Shiite Turkmen lawmaker Fawzi Akram al-Tarzi said the US airstrikes and Iranian support for Iraqi forces "have played a positive role in defeating the terrorists", although he said the airstrikes "came late" in the battle.
Today, Iraqi security forces and Shiite militiamen retook the nearby town of Suleiman Beg following fierce clashes with Sunni militants, Mr al-Tarzi said.
"The brave people of Amirli have made their town a new Stalingrad," he added, referring to the former name of the Russian city of Volgograd, famous for resisting a long siege by the German military during the Second World War. "Amrli people have clearly shown that Iraqis could not be intimidated by terrorists."
For months Iraq has faced a growing Sunni insurgency led by an al Qaida-breakaway group, the Islamic State. With help from allied militants, they have taken over territory in the country's north and west and created Iraq's worst crisis since the 2011 withdrawal of US troops.
Meanwhile the United Nation's top human rights body has approved the Iraqi government's request for an investigation into alleged crimes against civilians committed by the Islamic State (IS) group in its rampage across north-eastern Syria and Iraq.
Diplomats agreed by unanimous consent to approve a nearly 1.2 million US dollars (£722,000) UN fact-finding mission at a day-long special session of the 47-nation Human Rights Council.
Iraq's request for the UN to investigate alleged abuses by the extremist group was included in a resolution that more broadly condemns the group's severe tactics but also calls on Iraq's government to protect human rights.
Its aim is to provide the Geneva-based council with a report and evidence next March that could shed further light on Iraqi atrocities and be used as part of any international war crimes prosecution.
Earlier the UN said that at least 1,420 Iraqis were reported killed in violence in August, down from the previous month.
The UN mission to Iraq, known as UNAMI, said in its monthly statement that the death toll includes 1,265 civilians and 155 members of Iraq's security forces. Another 1,370 were wounded, including 1,198 civilians.
July's death toll stood at 1,737 people. In June, 2,400 were killed as Sunni militants swept across the country, the highest figure since at least April 2005.
The statement said the figures are the "absolute minimum" number of casualties and do not include deaths in the western Anbar province or other parts of northern Iraq that have been held by militants for months. It added: "The actual figures could be significantly higher."