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Iraq Loses Second-Largest City to Islamic Militants

By Namo Abdulla 10/6/2014
Iraqi Special Forces in Mosul. Photo: AFP
Iraqi Special Forces in Mosul. Photo: AFP

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Iraq’s troubled government lost its grip on the country’s second-largest city, Mosul in the northwest, after radical Islamic militants made huge advances on Tuesday and seized control of key positions such as the airport and municipality.

Thousands of militants from the al-Qaida splinter Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) were roaming freely in the city’s streets in their heavily-armed vehicles, according to witnesses and government officials.  

News of Mosul’s fall to militants caused panic and fear among the largely Sunni-Arab population of Nineveh province.

Kurdish government officials tell Rudaw that as many as 150,000 people, including Governor Athil al-Nujaifi, have already fled to safer parts of Iraq, including the Kurdistan Region.

"We will never allow for Mosul to remain under the control of the terrorists," vowed Prime Minister Nouri Maliki at a press conference in Baghdad.

The embattled prime minister, who is opposed by the country’s Sunnis, Kurds and many of his fellow Shiite parties, urged “everyone who can carry a gun" to start resisting against "terrorists."

But in Mosul, more anger was vented at Maliki’s government than at the vicious militants, whose rapid advances in the city have raised questions about the competence of an army long supported and trained by the United States.

"The army quickly retreated against a simple force such as ISIS, leaving all their tanks and heavy artillery for the militants," Nujaifi, the governor of Mosul, told Rudaw by phone.

"It's painful that I had to leave Mosul, but there was not one single Iraqi soldier available to defend me there," he added.

Pictures of a helicopter that the militants say they seized from the government appeared on a Twitter account for the ISIS.  Photographs of their Islamic flag flying over government buildings and military vehicles also appeared on social media websites.

Last week, the United States stepped up its military assistance to Iraq by delivering its first F-16 fighter jet, with 35 more to come.

But experts doubt such advanced weaponry is what Iraq needs to combat the insurgents in street fighting.

"F-16s will not help Iraq fight its insurgency war," said Aso Mohammed, an Iraq analyst with the Rudaw News Network. "The type of war (ISIS is fighting) does not have much to do about technological superiority. The Iraqi military should be trained in fighting insurgencies.”

A spokesperson for the ISIS, identifying himself as Abu Omer, told Rudaw TV by phone from Mosul airport that the group’s actions were justified because of the “injustice" done to Iraqis.

"We will only fight those who attack us," he said.

Iraqi and Kurdish officials voiced fears that the militants might seize control of major oilfields in the province. The Kurdish government has tightened security around an oilfield operated by ExxonMobil in Baashiqa, a town that falls within “disputed territories” claimed by both Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government.

Nineveh is also home to a large Christian minority.

In the predominately-Christian town of Hamdaniya, police chief Mohammed Rashid voiced fears there were not enough Iraqi forces in the area to defend against possible attacks by the militants, who have previously made Christians a primary target.

"If they come, they can control Hamdaniya in five minutes," Rashid warned.

Over the past three days, ISIS militants have spread into other provinces as well. On Monday, they launched two deadly attacks against the headquarters of Kurdish parties in Diyalah province, killing scores.

The resurgence of terrorists in Mosul comes more than a month after Iraq's parliamentary elections, in which Maliki’s party won the largest votes, but not enough to form a government alone. The embattled prime minister is seeking a third term.

As Iraqi politics remains deadlocked, more than 500 people -- mostly civilians -- died in May alone.


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Kurdoz | 10/6/2014
Keep going ISIS clear the ISF and then we release Peshmerges on your asses :) just the word Peshmerge makes ISIS shake of fear! They know that ISF is weak and thats why they took Mosul, but the attacks on Diyala and Tuz will be avenged! Cowards you made. Kurdish blood spill!
Dilok Bakure
Dilok Bakure | 10/6/2014
Sabran sabran ya Baghdad.
simber | 10/6/2014
imagine what the peshmerga 200000+ would do to an amateur idiotic army like that. good job iraqi army who are "well" trained by the US.. now get your shit together and take back mosul unless you want us kurds teaching you.
yek K. | 10/6/2014
Don't you see the danger? You all are blind to what is really happening! The ISIS is a brutal terrorist organization that can't be trust, never! When ISIS becomes stronger in Iraq, Rojava will be attacked even more violently. They want to build a terrorist state in Syria and Iraq. The kurdish lands included! You know Arabs, when they could they would kill all Kurds. ---------- Maliki is underestimating the situation. He lets them take some areas to declare a state of emergency. That will make him a dictator like Saddam! And with the help of USA and some F-16s he thinks he can fight ISIS back. -------- On the other hand, don't forget that ISIS and other Islamists are payed by Turkey. Erdogan wants to build a second Ottoman Empire and therefore he wants Mossul! If the situation escalates Turks will invade Mossul and never leave it! Then the connection between Basur and Rojava will be cut off.
Egid | 10/6/2014
Why are the Kurds again in frontline of a war? Bagdadi soldiers droped their wapons and run. They left all the tanks and vehicles on the streets! I don't trust this Arabs and their games!
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