Iraq's second city seized by jihadists
11 June 2014, 00:29 -- Jihadists overrun Iraq's second city of Mosul and string of Sunni Arab northern towns on Tuesday. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki asks parliament to declare state of emergency and announces government to arm citizens to fight jihadists and their allies. 'All of Nineveh province fell into hands of militants,' parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi says to journalists in Baghdad. Gunmen are heading south towards neighboring Salaheddin province, he added.
Hundreds of militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) launched a major assault on the security forces late on Monday, an army brigadier general said to AFP.
Mosul, the scene of deadly clashes on Friday and Saturday, was 'outside the control of the state and at the mercy of the militants,' an interior ministry official said.
Soldiers and police had stripped off their uniforms and fled, and the militants used loudspeakers to declare they had 'come to liberate' the city of some two million people.
Hundreds of families were seen fleeing. Some were on foot, carrying what they could, others in vehicles with their belongings piled on the roofs.
The militants seized the provincial government headquarters and the Nineveh Operations Command as well as the airport, the army general said. They also freed hundreds of prisoners from three jails.
The Turkish consulate in Mosul said ISIL fighters had captured 28 Turkish truck drivers. A foreign ministry official said Ankara hoped they would be released once they finished unloading fuel oil at a power station.
Maliki said the cabinet had decided to reorganize the security forces, arm citizens and to ask parliament to impose emergency rule. It had 'created a special crisis cell to follow up on the process of volunteering and equipping and arming', the premier said. State television said parliament had received a joint request from Maliki and the president's office to declare a state of emergency.
Predominantly Sunni Nineveh province, of which Mosul is the capital, has long been a militant stronghold and one of Iraq's most dangerous areas. ISIL, the most powerful militant group in Iraq, is also a key force in the rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad in neighboring Syria.
In April, it launched a campaign in Syria's Deir Ezzor province, which borders Nineveh, aimed at carving out an Islamic state. The group said it was behind the assault in Nineveh in messages on Twitter. Mosul is the second city to fall from government control this year. Anti-government fighters also control Fallujah, west of Baghdad.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon was 'gravely concerned by the serious deteriorating of the security situation in Mosul,' his spokesman said. ISIL militants also took a string of mainly Sunni Arab towns in ethnically mixed Kirkuk province, which borders Nineveh, police Colonel Ahmed Taha said.
Violence also struck other areas of Iraq on Tuesday. In Baquba, two bombs killed 20 people near a funeral procession for a slain teacher. And in Baghdad, 11 people died in attacks. Violence is running at its highest levels since 2006-2007, when tens of thousands were killed in clashes between Iraq's Shiite majority and Sunni Arab minority.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|