Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told army officers in the city of Samarra that volunteers were arriving to help defeat Islamist militants who have swept through Sunni Muslim territory towards Baghdad.

"Samarra will not be the last line of defence, but a gathering point and launchpad," Maliki said, addressing miliary officers in the city around 100 km (60 miles) north of the capital on the road to insurgent-controlled Mosul.

"Within the coming hours, all the volunteers will arrive to support the security forces in their war against the gangs of ISIL. This is the beginning of the end of them," he said in comments broadcast on Iraqi television on Saturday after he traveled to Samarra on Friday.

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