Iraqi intelligence officials have foiled an attempt by Islamic State to attack revered Shiite shrines and the sect's spiritual leader.
The IS plan was to launch a series of suicide attacks in Karbala and Najaf that house the shrines as well as the home of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.
Foiling of the plot comes after simultaneous air strikes by Iraqi and Russian air forces two weeks ago hit gatherings of suicide bombers in the Iraqi town of Qaim and in Syria's Mayadeen area, which are both under IS control.
Early this month, IS suffered a major blow as US-backed Iraqi troops captured the northern city of Mosul after nine months of highly destructive warfare. The militants now control small towns mainly near the border with Syria.
IS took over Iraq's second-largest city in summer 2014 when it conquered much of northern and western Iraq. Along with territories in Syria, they declared a caliphate and governed according to a harsh and violent interpretation of Islamic law.