News / Middle East

    Iraqi Government Prepares to Defend Baghdad

    Volunteers, who have joined the Iraqi army to fight against militants from the radical Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), carry weapons and wave Iraqi flags during a parade in the streets of eastern Baghdad June 15, 2014.
    Volunteers, who have joined the Iraqi army to fight against militants from the radical Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), carry weapons and wave Iraqi flags during a parade in the streets of eastern Baghdad June 15, 2014.
    VOA News
    In a bid to reassure the situation is under control, Iraqi state TV shows video of hundreds of volunteers standing in front of a military recruiting station Sunday. They interviewed military commanders to reinforce the message that popular enthusiasm to fight Sunni militants from the al-Qaida-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is strong.

    But it is not immediately clear whether Iraqi government forces are gaining or losing ground.  

    Eyewitness reports and information on rival television networks are contradictory.

    Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki lashed out at media organizations on Friday for allegedly “distorting the truth.”  

    The government cut Internet connections Sunday, in another sign of nervousness.

    Iraqi government forces are digging trenches outside the northern entrances of the capital Baghdad, as worries grow that advancing Sunni militants will attack the city.

    Meanwhile, the U.S. government has announced that in view of the ongoing violence it is relocating some diplomatic personnel, but will keep its embassy in Baghdad open and operating.

    "Some additional U.S. government security personnel will be added to the staff in Baghdad; other staff will be temporarily relocated.... Overall, a substantial majority of the U.S. Embassy presence in Iraq will remain in place and the Embassy will be fully equipped to carry out its national security mission.," said a statement by the State Despartment.

    Making headway

    A top government official says Iraqi forces have "regained the initiative" in their fight against Sunni militants who have seized large parts of the country and vow to overrun Baghdad.

    The prime minister's security spokesman, Lt. General Qassem Atta, told reporters on Sunday that Iraqi forces have killed 279 "terrorists" since Saturday.
     
    The military also claims it has inflicted heavy losses on militants fighting for control of the key town of Tal Afar, near the Syrian border.
     
    The government's claim and casualty numbers are hard to verify. But Iraqi forces and Shiite volunteers are starting to regroup and bolster their defenses, especially around Baghdad.
     
    Many government fighters abandoned their positions and left their weapons and vehicles behind last week as the militants seized territory in the north.
     
    A boy, who fled from the violence in Mosul, stands near tents in a camp for internally displaced people on the outskirts of Arbil in Iraq's Kurdistan region, June 14, 2014.A boy, who fled from the violence in Mosul, stands near tents in a camp for internally displaced people on the outskirts of Arbil in Iraq's Kurdistan region, June 14, 2014.
    x
    A boy, who fled from the violence in Mosul, stands near tents in a camp for internally displaced people on the outskirts of Arbil in Iraq's Kurdistan region, June 14, 2014.
    A boy, who fled from the violence in Mosul, stands near tents in a camp for internally displaced people on the outskirts of Arbil in Iraq's Kurdistan region, June 14, 2014.

    Residents leave Mosul

    Asharqiya TV showed long lines of hundreds of vehicles, which it claimed continue to flee Mosul.

    A Kurdish local official said on Sunday that he expected the number of refugees fleeing violence from Mosul to Arbil to increase, Reuters reported.
     
    An estimated 500,000 Iraqis have already fled Mosul, home to some 2 million people, and the surrounding province, the International Organization for Migration said.

    Sunni militants also reportedly blew up two churches inside the city and many, if not all, remaining Christian residents of the city have reportedly fled.

    Baghdad's forces will be joined by a flood of volunteers, urged on by a call to arms from top Shi'ite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.
     
    A recruitment center for such volunteers at the town of Khales in central Iraq came under mortar attack on Sunday, leaving six people dead, including three Iraqi soldiers, police and a doctor told AFP.

    While thousands of Shi'ite volunteers turned out in government-held areas to join the Iraqi military, some reports say many Sunnis were reportedly joining the militants and their allies.

    In Cairo, Arab League deputy head Ahmed Ben Helli told a news conference the group's ministerial council is “supporting the Iraqi government's effort to defeat the terrorists.”

    But Helli urged the country's fractious leaders to “overcome their political and religious differences ... and to form a united government.”

    Troubling photos

    Also on Sunday, ISIL posted graphic photos online that appear to show its fighters massacring dozens of captured Iraqi soldiers, according to an AP report.
     
    The pictures on a militant website appear to show ISIL masked fighters loading the captives, dressed in civilian clothes, onto flatbed trucks before forcing them to lie face-down in a shallow ditch with their arms tied behind their backs. 
     
    The final images show the bodies of the captives soaked in blood after being shot.
     
    The captions of the photos said the killings were to avenge the killing of an ISIL commander, Abdul-Rahman al-Beilawy, whose death was reported by both the government and ISIL shortly before the al-Qaida splinter group's lightning offensive.
     
    Iraq's top military spokesman, Lieutenant General Qassim al-Moussawi, confirmed the photos' authenticity and said he was aware of cases of mass murder of captured Iraqi soldiers in areas held by ISIL, the AP reported.
     
    Most of the soldiers who appear in the pictures are in civilian clothes. Some are shown wearing military uniforms underneath, indicating they may have hastily disguised themselves as civilians to try to escape.
     
    The captions did not provide a date or location, but al-Moussawi said the killings took place in Salahuddin province.

    State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki called the images horrifying and a true depiction of the bloodlust these terrorists represent.

    VOA's Edward Yeranian contibuted to this report from Cairo. Some information provided by Reuters, AFP and AP.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Anonymous
    June 15, 2014 3:26 PM
    Sad situation but they must protect their homes and property from criminal bandits.
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    June 15, 2014 5:17 PM
    they ARE the criminals and bandits...!!!

    by: Dave1967 from: Tennessee
    June 15, 2014 2:02 PM
    Iran will wind up being the country which helps Iraq in their time of need. While the US sits around indecisively unable to make a decision about how to help Iraq.

    by: meanbill from: USA
    June 15, 2014 12:19 PM
    MY OPINION? -- This US President bowed to the Saudi King -- (AND?) -- (knowingly or unknowingly), this US President is creating violence, killings, destruction and wars, in all the Islamic countries that would be a threat for this Saudi King to assume the Caliphate. -- (CRAZY isn't it?) -- This Saudi King and the other Islamic Monarchies, are the one's funding and supplying the extremists and terrorists, that's also fighting against those countries that threaten the Saudi King assuming the Caliphate? --- (THINK about it?) ... it's my opinion, REALLY

    by: Ron from: Santa Rosa Beach
    June 15, 2014 11:18 AM
    This is ALL Obama's fault. It was Obama that set up the "status of forces" that REQUIRED that the Iraq LEGISLATURE pass it instead of by executive order.

    Obama set this up as designed to fail so he could withdraw from Iraq.

    2010 was a fairly safe and secure Iraq.

    This is OBAMA's disaster and NOBODY else.
    In Response

    by: ronaldmason from: Santa Rosa Beach
    June 15, 2014 9:53 PM
    Chris: You are an idiot.

    http://www.humanevents.com/2011/11/29/iraq-status-of-forces-agreement/

    To complicate things even more and to make them even less palatable, Obama insisted that the immunity provisions would have to be approved by the Iraqi Parliament, not just by the Prime Minister’s office, as is often the case. Once the Iraqi Parliament got involved in the negotiations, things would become extremely complicated and difficult, if not impossible.
    In Response

    by: Chris from: Virginia
    June 15, 2014 4:11 PM
    It was Bush that signed the status of forces.
    Get your facts straight.

    by: Bob Forsberg from: southern California
    June 15, 2014 11:10 AM
    It would be encouraging to see the inhabitants of these countries actually take up arms in defending themselves before the invaders take over and call on us for more money, more armaments and more of our children to die for their inactions.
    In Response

    by: meanbill from: USA
    June 15, 2014 3:03 PM
    MY OPINION? -- (A conspiracy?) -- "It was the (US trained Iraq Security Forces) that took off their uniforms in the streets as planned, and walk away without firing a single shot" -- (AND NOW?) -- Look at who's supplying the military weapons and supplies to the Sunni extremists/terrorists including the (ISIL) fighting against the Assad Syrian government, and who are now joining with those same Sunni (US trained Iraq Security Forces) that took off their uniforms in the streets, to attack and overthrow the Maliki Shia led government?

    MY OPINION? -- The US is training and supplying weapons to the extremists/terrorists in Jordan and Turkey, to fight and overthrow the Syrian government -- (AND?) -- (the US is also training the Iraq Security Forces) -- that took off their uniforms in the streets, and walked off without firing a single shot -- with most of them joining with the extremist/terrorist coming from Syria, with the weapons and supplies they got from the US. -- (AND THE QUESTION IS?) -- Who's side is America on?
    In Response

    by: meanbill from: USA
    June 15, 2014 12:41 PM
    REMEMBER? -- It was the (US trained Iraq Security Forces) that took off their uniforms in the streets, and walked away, or joined the (ISIL) terrorists, wasn't it?

    NOW? -- Was it the training the (US trained Iraq Security Forces) received, that caused them to take their uniforms off and not fight (like cowards) at the same time, (or was it), a pre-planned strategy by an outside country to overthrow the Shia led Maliki government? -- (US TRAINED?) -- and they did WHAT? -- (Strange isn't it?)

    by: Adam9 from: Dong Nai, VN
    June 15, 2014 10:50 AM
    wow! Many unrests have been popping up in many places.
    In Response

    by: Solomon from: USA
    June 15, 2014 6:36 PM
    It is your American father's another excellent work.

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