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Islamist fighters who stormed the cities of Mosul and Tikrit earlier in the week claimed yesterday that they will attack on Iraq’s capital Baghdad next.
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) head Abu Mohammed al Adnani promised battle would “rage” in the city and in Karbala further south.
But in a display of utter disunity, embattled Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki failed to get parliament to declare a state of emergency because not enough MPs turned up to make a quorum.
Islamist fighters have also controlled the city of Fallujah since early this year and are still fighting to take over the oil refinery town of Beiji.
Isis and allies link to the former ruling Baath Party seized control of Tikrit on Wednesday following a devastating show of strength in Mosul on Tuesday, from which over 500,000 people have fled to refuge in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq.
Hundreds of prisoners were freed after Islamist fighters arrived in a convoy of more than 60 vehicles.
The Islamists took over local government buildings and set fire to the courthouse.
Isis fighters reportedly handed control of Tikrit to local militias yesterday and withdrew to fight security forces on the outskirts of Samarra as they closed to within 70 miles of the capital.
In Mosul, Islamist fighters entered to the Turkish consulate and held 48 people captive, including diplomats, police, consular employees and three children.
Turkish officials believe that the hostages are safe and are negotiating to free them.
In Mosul, as in Tikrit, the Islamists were able to move in after police and military forces melted away following brief clashes.
Meanwhile, in the north, Kurdish forces said they had taken full control of the northern oil city of Kirkuk after government forces fled.
Kirkuk Governor Najm al-Din Karim, himself a Kurd, said Peshmerga fighter were filling in gaps left by federal troops who withdrew from their positions.
“Army forces are no longer present,” he said.
US officials reported that Iraq had asked Washington to consider air strikes, including drone attacks, to halt the militants’ progress.
A formal request has not yet been made, although the US is considering sending “more weaponry,” an official said.
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