Home/ News / World/  Militants take Mosul as Iraq forces pull out of second city

Militant fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) seized Mosul after battling government forces for control of the northern Iraqi city, extending their reach over the country as central authority crumbles.

The group also captured the airport in Mosul as the Iraqi army pulled out of its positions inside the city, Dubai-based Al Arabiya television station said on Tuesday, citing the Nineveh governor Athil al-Nujaifi. Images on Al Jazeera satellite television showed cars burning in the city and citizens fleeing the fighting. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki called for parliament to declare a state of emergency.

Mosul is the second city that has fallen to the militant group since January, when it seized Fallujah in the western province of Anbar from government forces. More than seven years after US forces dealt a major blow to al-Qaeda in Iraq by killing its chief, Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, ISIL is emerging as the most powerful Sunni militant force in the country, exposing Maliki’s failure to heal the rifts from the country’s civil war.

“ISIL is making tremendous progress in Iraq and is expanding their operational space in the country," said Theodore Karasik, director of research at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis in Dubai, in a phone interview. “They are taking more land because they see Al-Maliki on the verge of failure, and this is their opportunity to make substantial gains."

ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi vowed in a June 2013 audio statement to erase what he called a Western-imposed border with Syria, where his guerrillas are also fighting, and to tear apart the governments in both countries and their regional backers.

Syria route

Violence has surged in Iraq’s northern and western provinces in recent months. ISIL has battled Maliki’s Shiite-led government, which is struggling to assert control over the oil-rich country following the pullout of US forces in 2011.

In desert areas of western Iraq, especially in Anbar and Nineveh provinces, ISIL has established semi-permanent encampments, providing secure bases for its fighters in Syria, the State Department said in an April report. ISIL fighters are fighting to topple Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in a civil war that pits mainly Sunni Muslim rebels against the forces of Assad, whose Alawite sect is an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

ISIL is trying to keep the northern and western regions of Iraq out of al-Maliki’s control, Hameed Fadhel, a professor at Baghdad University, said in a phone interview. The militant group is gaining ground because of political struggles within the country, he said.

Jail attacks

The militants captured the headquarters of the army’s third regiment, the last post of government forces in western Mosul on Monday, killing all the troops inside during a three-day siege, al-Mada news agency reported on Monday, citing security officials.

This terrorist attack won’t stop at Nineveh if they are not stopped, Osama al-Nujaifi, a member of Iraq’s parliament, said in a televised speech on Al Arabiya. It will reach everywhere in Iraq. He called on Iraqis to defend Mosul against these criminal gangs.

The militants also raided al-Anbar university on 7 June and took students hostage before withdrawing. In July, ISIL fighters helped orchestrate attacks on two prisons outside Baghdad, using mortars to free more than 500 inmates.

Civilian fatalities in Iraq, including police, totalled 7,818 last year, rivalling the 6,787 killed in 2008, according to data compiled by the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq. An additional 17,981 civilians were wounded last year, compared with 20,178 in 2008, the UN said.

The fighting in Mosul halted repair work on the country’s main pipeline exporting crude oil to Turkey, state-run North Oil Co. said in a statement on Tuesday. Northern shipments through the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline have been stopped since 2 March.

The pipeline, which runs near Mosul, has been targeted 54 times so far this year, the company said in May. That month, gunmen killed 15 soldiers from a unit in charge of protecting the line.

Iraq produced 3.3 million barrels of oil a day in May, making it the second-largest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries after Saudi Arabia. Bloomberg

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Updated: 10 Jun 2014, 07:34 PM IST
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