Iraq summoned the Egyptian ambassador in Baghdad on Tuesday to formally protest against a statement issued by Egypt's Al-Azhar last week that criticised alleged crimes against Sunnis by Shiite fighters in Iraq.
Egypt's foremost Sunni Islamic institution of Al-Azhar previously issued a statement on Thursday condemning what they called the "barbaric crimes" of Shiite Popular Mobilisation Forces, volunteers fighting alongside the Iraqi army against the Islamic State militant group (IS).
Baghdad is currently conducting its biggest operation yet against IS, in which they have almost full control over the city of Tikrit, about 160 km northwest of Baghdad, which the militant group is trying to recapture.
The Iraqi foreign ministry called on the Egyptian presidency to express its official stance regarding the Azhar statement, which had "negatively affected the fraternal and special relationship between both sister countries."
The ministry stated that "the heroes of the Popular Mobilisation Forces responded to the homeland’s calls to free its land" from IS.
On Thursday, Al-Azhar's statement read, "Al-Azhar follows and expresses its worries regarding actions committed by the so-called ‘militias of the Popular Mobilisation’ allied with the Iraqi army."
Al-Azhar said in the statement that the Popular Mobilisation Forces committed actions of "decapitation and assault against peaceful Iraqi citizens who do not belong to the Islamic State group or other terrorist organisations."
Al-Azhar also said the militias burned Sunni mosques, and killed Sunni women and children.
"Al-Azhar strongly condemns the barbaric crimes those extremist militias commit in the Sunni areas that the Iraq forces have started to control," said the statement, citing areas like Tikrit, Anbar and other cities with Sunni majorities.
In the statement, Al-Azhar also called on the international community and human rights organisations to intervene immediately to stop the "massacres".