Tens of Thousands of Iraqi Civilians Up in Arms against Isis Militants Siege
Armed men stand guard beside people shouting slogans in support for the call to arms by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who is the highest religious authority for Shi'ites in Iraq, in Najaf, south of BaghdadReuters

Tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians are volunteering to join the ongoing fight against the Isis [Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant] militants who are making rapid advances.

The Iraqis are enrolling themselves at the volunteer centres established in some of the country's cities in order to obtain weapons from the authorities.

"The citizens called for joining the Iraqi Army forces at the urging of a religious fatwa. They do not call for salaries and they only want weapons to join the fight against the Isis terrorists," a source told Iraqi News.

The Iraqi civilians comprise people of all ages including retired security personnel. Unconfirmed estimates suggest nearly 1.5 million people have volunteered to fight.

People are uniting in huge numbers following a call by senior political and religious figures in Iraq urging them to take up arms against the Isis militants.

The country's senior-most Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, is among those who have called on Iraqis to participate in the war against the Sunni extremists.

"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," his representative said earlier.

Obama weighing options

Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama said he was reviewing the options regarding military action in Iraq. He, however, insisted there will be no American troops on Iraqi soil.

Obama admitted the latest conflict in Iraq could snowball into a bigger crisis affecting US interests.

Stressing that Iraqi forces need additional support to "break the momentum of extremist groups and bolster the capabilities of Iraqi security forces," Obama added that any US assistance "has to be joined by a serious and sincere effort by Iraq's leaders to set aside sectarian differences".