Jun 10 2014 - 09:58

REPORT: Iraq facing "serious crisis" after insurgents overrun Mosul

REPORT: Iraq facing "serious crisis" after insurgents overrun Mosul Lebanon, news ,lbci ,أخبار serious,quot,facing,Iraq,REPORT,
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Baghdad said it had asked for U.S. support on Tuesday (June 10), after radical Sunni Muslim insurgents seized control of most of Iraq's second largest city of Mosul, overrunning a military base and freeing hundreds of prisoners in a spectacular strike against the Shi'ite-led Iraqi government.
The capture of Mosul by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) - an offshoot of al Qaeda - and its allies followed four days of fierce fighting in Mosul and other cities and towns in northern Iraq.         
Iraq's parliament speaker, Osama al-Nujaifi, said it wasn't just Mosul that was under threat, but the entire northern province of Nineveh.       

"We are facing a very serious crisis, a crisis that is represented by a foreign invasion of Iraq by terrorist groups from various different countries, occupying cities and killing innocent people and overthrowing the state in a blatant way. What has happened over the past few days and today is a total occupation of Nineveh province," he said during a news conference in Baghdad.        

Two Iraqi army officers said security forces had received orders to leave the city after militants captured the Ghizlani army base in southern Mosul and set more than 200 prisoners free from a high security jail.       

The retreating army and police forces set fire to fuel and ammunition depots in order to prevent the militants from using them, the Iraqi officers said.      

"When battles intensified inside the city of Mosul, the (Iraqi) forces abandoned their weapons and the commanders fled, leaving behind weapons, armored vehicles - their positions were easy prey for terrorists, even Mosul airport. Planes and command positions - all of them have fallen in addition to weapons caches. Also prisons were stormed and criminals have been set free. What happened is a catastrophe by any measure," said al-Nujaifi.       

Thousands of families were fleeing the city towards the autonomous Kurdish region, which shares a border with Nineveh province, of which Mosul is the capital.       

Al-Nujaifi said he had appealed to the U.S. for assistance.       

"I spoke to the U.S. ambassador an hour ago and I asked the United States to play a role in supporting Iraq against this terrorist attack, in the framework of the strategic agreement, and they promised to discuss the issue urgently. I also asked for urgent relief for the displaced by the international community. As for the participation of Peshmerga forces, this issue is essential as operations are taking place on joint territories and joint borders. Terrorism will not be confined to Nineveh, but it will attack the Kurdistan region if the region does not take the initiative and help the army and the police," he said.         

Police, military and security officials told Reuters the insurgents, armed with anti-aircraft weapons and rocket-propelled grenades, had taken over almost all police and army checkpoints in and around the Mosul area.       

Police and local officials said the militants were using cranes to move blast walls into position and block roads to prevent the army from regaining control.       

Several army officers said Iraqi forces were demoralized and no match for the militants from the Sunni Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which is also active across the border in Syria.           
The fall of Mosul deals a serious blow to Baghdad's efforts to fight Sunni militants who have regained ground and momentum in Iraq over the past year and pushed into Mosul last week.        

In a nationally televised press conference, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki asked parliament to convene an urgent session to declare a state of emergency. "Iraq 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."        

Also on Tuesday, at least 20 people were killed when two bombs exploded at a cemetery in the Iraqi city of Baquba, where mourners were burying a university professor shot dead the previous day, police and medics said.          

Baquba is about 50 km (30 miles) northeast of Baghdad.        

Turkish truck drivers:       

Turkish truck drivers said on Tuesday (June 10) that they are concerned about traveling to Iraq following the kidnapping of 28 of their colleagues.
Turkish media reports said the drivers were taken hostage by militants from the Sunni Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) while carrying diesel from Turkey's southern port of Iskenderun to a power plant in Mosul.
"We are going to Arbil and I have never considered going to Mosul even before this incident. I have always been afraid of going to Mosul. After this incident, I would never set foot there. We are really uneasy and we are really scared of these developments even though we are not going there," said truck driver Resit Alcakkaya.

"I am going to Arbil but I am intimidated, I don't know if it's safe or not. In the past, I used to travel at night but now I am concerned and I prefer the dayshift. Nevertheless I am still scared to go to Arbil," said another, Bahattin Aksak.

An official at Ikra Logistics, a trucking company based in the southern Turkish city of Adana which ships diesel to Mosul, said it had lost contact with some of its drivers and that they could be among those reportedly abducted.

"No precautionary measures have been taken and I do not want to go there without security measures. I am afraid. There is no guarantee that we would be safe and I don't want to be killed while trying to make money," said truck driver Ahmet Resahit.

A Turkish official said on Tuesday that the truck drivers are thought to be unharmed and could be released soon.

"These truck drivers were taking fuel to an energy storage and distribution hub. When they arrived, ISIL (militants) were already there," the official told Reuters, adding that Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was in contact with Iraqi, Kurdish and U.S. officials to try to ensure their safe release. 

US condemns Mosul attack:

The United States on Tuesday condemned the seizure of the Iraqi city of Mosul by Sunni Islamist insurgents and said it supported "a strong, coordinated response to push back against this aggression," offering assistance to the government of Iraq.         

"The United States is deeply concerned about the events that have transpired in Mosul over the last 48 hours where elements of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISIL) have taken over significant parts of the city. The situation remains extremely serious," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.        

Psaki added that senior U.S. officials in both Washington and Baghdad were tracking events closely in coordination with Iraqi's Shi'ite-led government as well as Iraqi leaders from across the political spectrum including the Kurds.          

She said U.S. officials "support a strong, coordinated response to push back against this aggression." She said: "The United States will provide all appropriate assistance to the Government of Iraq under the Strategic Framework Agreement (between the two nations) to help ensure that these efforts succeed."
"ISIL continues to gain strength from the situation in Syria, from which it transfers recruits, sophisticated munitions, and resources to the fight in Iraq," Psaki added.        

"It should be clear that ISIL is not only a threat to the stability of Iraq, but a threat to the entire region. This growing threat exemplifies the need for Iraqis from all communities to work together to confront this common enemy and isolate these militant groups from the broader population," Psaki said.          


To watch Rita Khoury's report, please click on the video above.
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