Al Qaeda-Linked Group Takes Over Iraq's Second Largest City

Security forces reportedly retreated as members of ISIS or ISIL attacked the city of Mosul. The fighting has displaced nearly 500,000 people.

Al Qaeda-Linked Group Takes Over Iraq's Second Largest City
Al Jazeera

Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is calling for a state of emergency after Mosul, the country's second-largest city, was taken over by a groups of militants linked to al Qaeda. 

"Police and army abandoned their posts after insurgents stormed government headquarters, prisons and television stations. There were reports that more than 1,000 prisoners were set free." (Via Euronews)

The militants are believed to be a part of ISIS or ISIL, an al-Qaeda-related terrorist group. CNN cites other journalists who witnessed the chaos and saw the bodies of members of Iraqi security forces littering the streets. 

The fighting reportedly began four or five days ago, and in that time nearly half a million people of the city's 1.8 million population have fled Mosul. Iraq's parliamentary speaker blamed the country's army for what took place Tuesday.  

"The Iraqi forces abandoned their weapons and the commanders fled, leaving behind weapons and armored vehicles. Their positions were easy prey for terrorists." (Via Al Jazeera)

According to The New York Times, the "windfall of arms" taken by the insurgents were given to the U.S.-trained security forces. The Times reports, "Those proxy forces do not always prove equal to the task, and when they buckle, the United States finds itself having unwittingly armed its enemies." 

The takeover of Mosul is a blow to the U.S. military's effort to help stabilize the country and the region. The Washington Post reports Mosul is a "key commercial and trading center" and, although it couldn't be independently confirmed, militants had reportedly taken over the city's airport which is a "major hub for the U.S. military." 

The U.S. State Department released a statement about the takeover of Mosul saying, "The United States is deeply concerned about the events that have transpired in Mosul over the last 48 hours. ... We will continue to work closely with Iraqi political and security leaders on a holistic approach to diminish ISIL’s capacity and ability to operate within Iraq's borders."

Parliament is expected to convene Thursday where they will debate whether to implement a state of emergency. Al Jazeera reports some of al-Maliki's critics believe the declaration will give the prime minister too much power.