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Protect protesters,’ Iraq’s top cleric tells security forces

Iraq’s most powerful Shiite cleric has called for security forces to protect anti-government protesters.

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani’s words came two days after at least eight protesters were killed in the holy southern city of Najaf. They died when followers of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr stormed a protest site and fired live rounds, AP said.

Sistani, a revered Shiite religious figure whose opinion holds sway over Iraqis, said security forces were “indispensable” and responsible for maintaining law and order. The comments came in his weekly Friday sermon delivered by a representative in Najaf. He directly condemned Wednesday’s attack.

Security forces “must bear the responsibility for maintaining security and stability, protecting peaceful protests and protest sites, uncovering the aggressors and infiltrators,” Sistani said.