TEHRAN (Press Shia Agency) – Iraq’s top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani on Friday condemned recent killings and kidnappings of protesters, urging the state to assert control over the widespread use of weapons.

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He also called on the armed forces to remain professional, loyal to the state and free from foreign influence, a representative of Sistani said during a sermon on Friday in the holy city of Karbala, Reuters reported.

Armed forces “must be loyal to the nation, and free from foreign interference,” he said.

Iraq has been rocked by anti-government protests for more than two months.