Islamic militants overran parts of Iraq's second-largest city, Mosul,
on Tuesday, driving security forces from their posts and seizing the
provincial government headquarters, security bases and other key
buildings. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki asked parliament to declare a
state of emergency.
The battle for Mosul was a serious blow to
Baghdad's attempts to tame a widening insurgency by a breakaway al-Qaida
group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Earlier this year, the
group took over another Iraqi city, Fallujah, in the west of the
country, and government forces have been unable to take it back after
months of fighting.
In a nationally televised press conference,
al-Maliki asked parliament to convene an urgent session to declare a
state of emergency. "Iraqi is undergoing a difficult stage," he said,
acknowledging that militants had taken control of "vital areas in
Mosul," and saying the public and government must unite "to confront
this vicious attack, which will spare no Iraqi."
constitution, parliament can declare a 30-day state of emergency on a
two-thirds vote by its members, granting the prime minister the
necessary powers to run the country.
insurgents took control of Mosul's government complex for northern
Ninevah province - a key symbol of state authority - late Monday after
days of fighting in the city, 225 miles northwest of Baghdad. On
Tuesday, Mosul residents said the militants appeared to be in control of
several parts of the city, raising the black banners that are the
emblem of the Islamic State. The residents spoke to The Associated Press
by telephone on condition of anonymity, fearing for their safety.
gunmen overran police stations and several prisons, setting free
detainees who were seen running in the streets in their
yellow-jumpsuits, the residents said.
The fighters also seized
helicopters at Mosul airport and seized heavy equipment and weapons
depots, parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi - a Sunni from Mosul - said
in a televised address. South of Mosul, several villages and a military
air base around the town of Shurqat, in Salahuddin province, also fell
to militants, al-Nujaifi said.
"What happened is a disaster by any
standard," he said. "The presence of these terrorist groups in this
vast province ... threatens not just the security and the unity of Iraq,
but the whole Middle East."
Al-Nujaifi said the terrorists are now setting their sights on Salahuddin, a province just north of Baghdad.
blamed the fall of Mosul on "negligence" on the part of army forces and
their withdrawal from the city. He described the situation there as "a
disaster that threatens, not just Iraq, but the whole Middle East
Nujaifi said he spoke to U.S. Ambassador Lukman Faily,
requesting U.S. support to repel the terrorists' attack by virtue of the
Joint Cooperation agreement between the two countries. Ambassador Faily
promised to promptly convey our request to the U.S. administration,
He also said that President Barzani, the president of Iraqi
Kurdistan, expressed willingness to send Peshmerga forces to support the
Iraqi army in repelling the invading terrorists, and also promised to
offer refuge to thousands of displaced Nineveh residents who fled the
city because of the fighting.
Mosul - with its surrounding Ninevah
province - is a key strategic area, a gateway to neighboring Syria,
where Islamic State has also grabbed swaths of territory. The Islamic
State of Iraq and the Levant has been behind a wave of violence in Iraq,
claiming to be the champion for Iraq's large and disaffected Sunni
minority against the Shiite-led government, and it is also considered
one of the most ruthless rebel forces fighting to topple President
Bashar Assad in Syria.
Umm Karam, a government employee who lives
about two kilometers (just over a mile) from the provincial
headquarters, said her family decided to flee the city early on Tuesday
after hearing about the government building's fall.
is chaotic inside the city and there is nobody to help us," the
Christian mother of two said, using a nickname out of concern for her
safety. "We are afraid ... There is no police or army in Mosul."
elderly resident, speaking by phone after she and her family fled the
city on foot to a nearby village Tuesday, said the city was without
electricity and water.