News / Middle East

    US Pledges to Help Iraq Repel Militants

    A family fleeing the violence in Mosul, Iraq, waits at a checkpoint in the country’s Kurdistan region on June 11, 2014.
    A family fleeing the violence in Mosul, Iraq, waits at a checkpoint in the country’s Kurdistan region on June 11, 2014.
    VOA News
    With security in Iraq quickly deteriorating, the United States on Wednesday pledged "any appropriate assistance" to help the Iraqi government fend off a rapid military advance by Islamist militants.

    Militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) hours earlier overran the city of Tikrit and closed in on Iraq's biggest oil refinery in the town of Beiji, a day after seizing Iraq's second-largest city, Mosul.

    By late Wednesday, militants had reached the edge of Samarra, an important Shi'ite shrine almost 113 kilometers, or 70 miles, north of Baghdad, The New York Times reported. The militants threatened to destroy the shrine unless government forces left.

     
    Cities Mosul, Tikrit and Beiji, IraqCities Mosul, Tikrit and Beiji, Iraq
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    Cities Mosul, Tikrit and Beiji, Iraq
    Cities Mosul, Tikrit and Beiji, Iraq
    Witnesses said militants have taken over several Tikrit police stations and the governor reportedly is missing. Tikrit, the hometown of fallen Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, is less than 200 kilometers, or 124 miles, from Baghdad and the central government.

    The State Department has had no confirmation of news reports that militants were heading for Baghdad, spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a news briefing. "It is a very fluid situation on the ground," she added. "We are of course very concerned about the deteriorating situation."

    Militants still control Mosul

    Militants continue to hold Mosul, as both Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Ninevah Provincial Governor Athil Nujeifi urged residents to fight to retake it.
     
    Maliki blasted Iraqi military officials who deserted their posts and fled Mosul, claiming in a speech Wednesday that they were part of a plot.
     
    Earlier on Wednesday, the International Organization for Migration said Wednesday that fears of further violence in Mosul forced 500,000 people to flee their homes. It said the displaced either moved across the city or fled to other parts of Ninevah province or the neighboring Kurdish province of Irbil.
     
    Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
     
    • Formed by members of al-Qaida-linked groups in Syria and Iraq
    • Aims to establish an Islamic emirate across Syria and Iraq
    • Led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, former leader of al-Qaida in Iraq
    • Believed to have 5,000 to 7,000 fighters
    • Has launched high-profile attacks in both countries

    Turkish government sources said militants have seized the Turkish consulate in Mosul, kidnapping at least 48 people, including the Turkish consul, staff members, guards and three children. The militants already had abducted 31 other Turkish citizens, truck drivers who were being held at a Mosul power station.

    Psaki said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had discussed the situation by phone.

    "We are in touch with the governments of Turkey and Iraq and stand ready to provide any appropriate assistance,'' she said.

    Washington this year already had increased training of Iraqi security forces and expedited military equipment supplies, Psaki said.

    "We are working with Iraqi leaders from across the country to support a coordinated response," Psaki said, "and you can expect we will provide additional assistance to the Iraqi government to combat the threat from ISIL.'

    At the United Nations in New York, Davutoglu warned Wednesday that any harm to Turkish citizens would be met with the "harshest retaliation."

    Global oil prices climb

    Militants had entered Beiji, set fire to the police station and courthouse, and driven out some 250 men guarding the refinery. With news of the seizure and threat to Iraq's oil supply, global oil prices climbed to $110 a barrel.
     
    With tightened security measures, an Iraqi federal policeman conducts a search at aBaghdad checkpoint on June. 11, 2014.With tightened security measures, an Iraqi federal policeman conducts a search at aBaghdad checkpoint on June. 11, 2014.
    x
    With tightened security measures, an Iraqi federal policeman conducts a search at aBaghdad checkpoint on June. 11, 2014.
    With tightened security measures, an Iraqi federal policeman conducts a search at aBaghdad checkpoint on June. 11, 2014.
    Separately, at least 16 people were killed in a suicide bombing in Baghdad. The attack took place at a tent where people had gathered in Sadr City's Shi'ite neighborhood.   

    Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said Wednesday that Iraq's leaders must unite to face what he called a "serious, mortal threat" facing the country.

    The militants' seizure of Iraqi cities and their swift advance southward constitute a stunning defeat for the country's Shi'ite-led government.

    Hundreds of fleeing soldiers reportedly tore off their uniforms and fled their posts for the safety of nearby Kurdistan. One soldier told Iraq's al-Sharqiya TV that he had come "face-to-face with vicious Pakistani fighters" and "felt incapable of pushing them back."

    Declaration of emergency sought

    Maliki, saying the country is "undergoing a difficult stage," asked parliament to call an urgent session to declare a state of emergency.

    The parliament's speaker, Osama al-Nujaifi, characterized the militants' takeover of Mosul as "a catastrophe by any measure" and described the scene there.

    "When battles intensified inside the city of Mosul, the [Iraqi] forces abandoned their weapons and the commanders fled, leaving behind weapons, armored vehicles,"  al-Nujaifi said. "Their positions were easy prey for terrorists, even Mosul airport. Planes and command positions -- all of them have fallen, in addition to weapons caches. Also, prisons were stormed and criminals have been set free. What happened is a catastrophe by any measure."

    The attackers were armed with rocket-propelled grenades and anti-aircraft weapons. Retreating Iraqi troops set fire to fuel and ammunition depots to keep the insurgents from using them.

    Al-Qaida group defies control

    The takeover of Mosul was the latest blow against the Iraqi government's attempt to control the growing insurgency by ISIL, an offshoot al-Qaida group. Earlier this year, the group took over another Iraqi city, Fallujah, and government forces have been unable to reclaim it after months of fighting.

    To the west of Mosul, the militants have seized control of parts of eastern Syria in their fight against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The insurgents are seeking to establish an Islamic state with the regions they control in eastern Syria and western Iraq.

    Iraq is dealing with its worst violence since 2008, with the United Nations reporting that approximately 4,500 people have been killed this year. More than 900 of the deaths occurred last month.

    Related video by Sebastian Meyer, "ISIS Takeover in Mosul Displaces Thousands"  
     
    ISIS Takeover in Mosul Displaces Thousandsi
    X
    June 11, 2014 10:32 PM
    The extremist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) seized control of the western half of Mosul, Iraq's second largest city on June 6. Three days later, Iraqi security forces retreated, leaving the entire city in the hands of the jihadis. According to the U.N., up to half a million people have fled the city, raising concerns over a new humanitarian crisis. Sebastian Meyer reports from northern Iraq.

    Some information for this report came fron Reuters. VOA News' Edward Yeranian also contributed from Cairo, Egypt.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments page of 2
     Previous    
    by: jonathan huang from: canada
    June 11, 2014 9:47 AM
    this insurgent is the same ppl of Syria rebels. you are wondering why they are so strong? yes US armed them in Syria, thats why! US armed them to fight against Bashar. now pro west Iraqi government got backfire! Karma! why America keeps shooting its own tors?
    In Response

    by: MUSTAFA from: INDIA
    June 11, 2014 11:03 PM
    You are right. What is going on in Iraq is the result of money and weapons from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, USA AND EU. They helped human killer in Syria to kill poor Syrian. Now after Syria they played the same dirty game to kill poor Iraqi, rape girls, burn their houses and create as much as possible human suffering and all with the help of money and weapons from MAIN SPONSORS.

    by: Stephen Real from: Columbia USA
    June 11, 2014 9:23 AM
    This really bothers me that Mosul fell. Malaki is a tool. He stinks. He's gonna loose Baghdad.
    In Response

    by: Steve from: Omaha
    June 11, 2014 4:41 PM
    Just glad we left when asked to leave... wait, were going to go back now? What?

    by: Leroy padmore from: Jersey City
    June 11, 2014 5:46 AM
    The Iraqi military need to stand on their own feet. They are well trained by the most power military in the world. they have lot of good military equipment, If they cannot combat the insurgents, well they have serious problem on their hands. The U.S went in there clean up all that mess, and for the Iraqi military to sit there and allowed the rebels to take over, that is a shame. They need to counter act those rebels and repair the city of Mosul. This is a predicament for the whole region. The Iraqi military has more advance weaponry then that of the rebels. But like I said Islam is a violent region. and this is a ongoing problem for the world. The world has big mess in her hands to deal with.
    In Response

    by: Mark from: Virginia
    June 12, 2014 10:37 AM
    maybe I don't want the U.S. to be a superpower any more, maybe I don't want the U.S. to have the strongest military "in the world". maybe I don't want the U.S. to have to clean up the messes we make. Maybe I want the U.S. to respect the political choices of other countries, whether we agree with them or not. Maybe I want the U.S. to let other countries handle their own domestic problems. Maybe I want the U.N. to step up and take more action than just being a glorified discussion committee capable of more than just wagging its collective finger at the offenders.
    In Response

    by: Leroy Padmore from: Jersey City
    June 11, 2014 7:09 PM
    Meanbill you know and I know, there is no military on this earth that can fight the U.S or defeat the U.S. No not one. Including Russia. All the war the U.S fought, they won all, Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S destroyed Iraq beyond repair. But this is how it is going to be. the U.S is the world superpower. and all the nations will respect that. whether they like it or not. the U.S reign.
    In Response

    by: Sarmad
    June 11, 2014 9:52 AM
    How can you say Islam is a violent religion? Christians fought 2 world wars and if we go a little back, they had been fighting for millenniums in Europe. So does it make Christianity a violent religion?
    In Response

    by: meanbill from: USA
    June 11, 2014 9:21 AM
    Hey Leroy, you did "quote" say it; -- "They were well trained by the most power military in the world, they have lot of good military equipment, if they cannot combat the insurgents, well they have serious problem on their hand."

    CRAZY isn't it? -- The US and NATO with the greatest military forces in the history of the world, armed and trained the Iraq military -- (AND AN UNDENIABLE FACT IS?) -- the US, with it's NATO allies, with the greatest military forces in history, haven't won a conflict or war since WW2 of any kind? -- (IT JUST MAYBE?) -- that's why the Iraq military can't defeat the ISIL an other (Al-Qaeda) affiliated terrorists? ... (because the US trained them?)

    In Afghanistan, the US and NATO with the greatest military forces in the history of the world, with overwhelming superior weapons, -- and COULDN'T defeat a few thousand guys riding donkeys, wearing nightshirts, gym shoes and sandals, (and now they are retreating), without winning the Afghan war? -- (CRAZY ISN'T IT?) -- The US lost the Vietnam war, and couldn't win the Iraq and Afghan war, (but yet), they are still the greatest military force in the history of the world?
    Comments page of 2
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