Jihadists take over Iraq town as half a million people flee
As many as half a million Iraqis fled their homes as jihadists tightened their grip beyond second city Mosul on Wednesday.
In a spectacular blow to the Shiite-led government, the militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and their allies on Tuesday seized Mosul and surrounding Nineveh province as well as a string of other northern towns.
And on Wednesday ISIL declared on Twitter that it was in “complete control” of all routes in and out of Nineveh, and promised it would “not stop this series of blessed invasions”, AFP reported.
Members of the jihadist group also seized the Turkish consulate in Mosul and kidnapped the head of the diplomatic mission along with 24 staff, police said.
Elsewhere, they executed 15 security personnel in Kirkuk province and tried to take the oil pipeline hub of Baiji, before withdrawing when troop reinforcements arrived, officials said.
The jihadist’s surprise advance poses significant challenges to Baghdad, with a risk consultancy saying they would be bolstered by cash from Mosul’s banks, hardware from military bases and hundreds of men they freed from prison.
It also sparked a massive exodus of civilians, with families piling into cars that flooded security checkpoints outside the northern city normally home to two million people.
On Wednesday, gunmen in military uniforms and all-black clothing guarded government buildings and banks in Mosul, said witnesses reached by telephone from Bashiqa, a town to the east.
They called over loudspeakers for government employees to go back to work.
“I did not open the door of the shop since last Thursday because of the security conditions,” said Abu Ahmed, a 30-year-old shopkeeper.