Thursday 19 October 2017

Iraq crisis: 500,000 forced to flee Mosul after Islamist militants take control

Iraqi security officials say al Qaida-inspired militants have seized the northern city of Tikrit.

Officials said Saddam Hussein's home town was under the control of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, whose fighters this week took control of Mosul, the country's second largest city.

The officials say the provincial governor based in the city is missing.

Up to 500,000 people have been forced to flee Mosul after Islamist militants from an al-Qa'ida splinter group overran the city and took control.

Those fleeing from Mosul to the Kurdistan Region have now been told they must already have family in the region or a sponsor in order to receive permission from the govornate to enter from the surrounding Nineveh province, the International Organisation for Migration has reported.

Many residents in the city have been forced to flee on foot as they have been prohibited from using vehicles in the city. They report “chaos” from within its walls, with police stations on fire, over 1,000 prisoners freed and hospitals remaining inaccessible.

Witnesses say the military, police and city officials have also fled the city after it was overrun by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), while government soldiers abandoned all vehicles and weapons and left on foot.

"We can't beat them. We can't," one army officer told Reuters. "They are well trained in street fighting and we're not. We need a whole army to drive them out of Mosul.

"They're like ghosts: they appear, strike and disappear in seconds."

The Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has asked parliament to declare a state of emergency to grant him further powers. A spokesperson for Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary-General, said he was "gravely concerned" by the events.

Kurdistan Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani has issued a statement appealing to the UN refugee agency for help.

"In order to assist and support the displaced people of the city of Mosul, including all of the city's different ethnic groups – Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen, Chaldeans and Assyrians – I ask the people of the Kurdistan Region to help the displaced people of Mosul in whatever way they can within the framework of legal and security guidelines”, he said.

The United States condemned the seizure of Mosul, calling the situation "extremely serious" and urging fractious political groups to fight Iraq's enemies together.

Independent News Service

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