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Dec 11, 4:23 AM EST

Iraqi Shiite cleric urges fighters to disarm after IS defeat

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BAGHDAD (AP) -- An influential Iraqi Shiite cleric is urging his fighters to hand state-issued weapons back to the government following the declaration of victory against the Islamic State group.

Muqtada al-Sadr also called on his forces to hand some of the territory they control to other branches of Iraq's security forces, but said his men would remain as protectors of a holy Shiite shrine in Samarra, north of Baghdad.

Al-Sadr's speech was broadcast on Iraq television on Monday.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory over IS in a national address on Saturday evening, after Iraqi forces cleared the last IS strongholds from Iraq's western desert.

Al-Sadr's fighters took up arms against IS in the summer of 2014 after the fall of Mosul and are officially part of the government-sanctioned Popular Mobilization Forces.

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