Thousands of Shiites have volunteered to join the Iraqi Army to fight the Islamic militants who have captured large swathes of territory in the north of the country.

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Newly-recruited Iraqi volunteers wearing police forces uniforms take part in a training session in Karbala.AFP

The volunteers have been given military uniforms, and are undergoing basic training. "By God's will, we will be victorious." said one volunteer, Ali Saleh Aziz. "We will not be stopped by Isis or any other terrorists."

This mobilisation is unfolding against a backdrop of religious and nationalist fervour. State-run television airs a constant flow of nationalist songs, clips of soldiers marching or singing, as well as interviews with troops vowing to crush the militants.

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Volunteers queue to collect their Iraqi Army uniforms in Karbala.AFP
iraq army volunteers
Iraqi volunteers try on their new uniforms in Karbala.AFP
iraq army volunteers
New-recruits are given military-style training in the central Shiite Muslim city of Karbala.AFP

The call to arms threatens to intensify tension between Shiites and Sunnis. A representative for Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most revered Shiite spiritual leader in Iraq, told worshippers at Friday prayers that it was their civic duty to confront the threat.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite widely resented by Sunnis for his perceived sectarian policies, denied that the call by the Iranian-born Ayatollahi was directed against Sunnis, saying it was in fact meant to protect the country and its holy shrines. "Talk of Sunnis and Shiites must be dropped," he said, calling for the unity of all Iraqis.

Many volunteers, however, said they had enlisted to protect their faith and shrines at risk in the city of Samarra north of Baghdad and elsewhere. The militants have threatened to march all the way south to the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala, home to two of the most revered Shiite shrines.

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An Iraqi soldier waves as trucks carrying volunteers leave a recruitment centre in Baghdad.AFP
iraq army volunteers
Volunteers, who have joined the Iraqi army to fight Isis militants, gesture from a truck in Baghdad.Reuters
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An young boy in a car holds a rifle as people gather in Baghdad to show their readiness to join Iraqi security forces.AFP
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An young boy holds a gun at the window of a vehicle carrying volunteers in Baghdad.AFP
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An elderly volunteer holds a weapon during a parade in the streets of Baghdad.Reuters
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Iraqi men in Basra show their willingness to join security forces in the fight against Jihadi militants.AFP
iraq army volunteers
An young man signs up in Najaf to join the fight against a major offensive by jihadists in northern Iraq.Reuters
Mehdi Army fighters loyal to Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr march during military-style training in the holy city of Najaf.Reuters
Mehdi Army fighters march during military-style training in Najaf.Reuters