Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Tuesday offered weapons and equipment to citizens who volunteer to fight Islamist militants, hours after the government forces lost the northern city of Mosul to the al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS).
In a statement broadcast on state television, Maliki said the cabinet has “created a special crisis cell to follow up on the process of volunteering and equipping and arming.”
ISIS takes control of Mosul
The cabinet “praises the willingness of the citizens and the sons of the tribes to volunteer and carry weapons … to defend the homeland and defeat terrorism,” he said.
Maliki said the cabinet also decided to “restructure and reorganize” the security forces, and to ask parliament to “announce a state of emergency.”
Hours after Maliki’s statement ISIS Jhadists also seized several areas in Kirkuk province, a police officer said, according to AFP.
ISIS militants overran the Hawijah, Zab, Riyadh and Abbasi areas west of the city of Kirkuk, and Rashad and Yankaja to its south, Colonel Ahmed Taha said.
The following video shows Mosul the morning after it was captured by ISIS militants
Arbil Governor Nouzad Hadi blamed Maliki’s government for the fall of Nineveh Province, including its capital city Mosul, to the hands of al-Qaeda-linked militants.
Hadi told the Dubai-based Hadath TV channel that the Iraqi military forces “are well-armed with the latest weaponry from the United States” but “that Maliki’s security policy has led to this failure.”
“This is a real tragedy,” Hadi said.
Iraqi authorities declared state of emergency in the militants took control of Mosul, driving army troops from their central base, an Al Arabiya News Channel correspondent reported.
“The city of Mosul is outside the control of the state and at the mercy of the militants,” an interior ministry official told AFP, making it the second city to fall to anti-government forces this year.
Militants were making further gains in a fourth day of fighting in the city.
An Al Arabiya Channel correspondent said that at least 2,725 prisoners had escaped from jails in the country’s second-largest city.
The following video shows the streets of Mosul after it was captured by ISIS militants
Mosul Governor Atheel Nujaifi had been trapped inside the provincial government’s headquarters but managed to escape while police held back an assault by hundreds of militants armed with rocket-propelled grenades, sniper rifles and machine guns mounted on vehicles, Reuters news agency reported.
On Monday, Nujaifi made a televised plea to the city’s inhabitants to fight militants who have been regaining ground in Iraq and last Friday moved into Mosul.
“I call on the men of Mosul to stand firm in their areas and defend them against the outsiders, and to form popular committees through the provincial council,” said Nujaifi, the Iraqi flag draped behind him.
The western side of Mosul is now in control of militants, who are advancing steadily southward in the direction of a major army base where a military airport and top-security prison are located, three army officers told Reuters.
Several army officers told Reuters that Iraqi forces were demoralized and no match for the militants from the ISIS, which is also active across the border in Syria.
“Without urgent intervention of more supporting troops Mosul could fall into their hands in a matter of days” said a senior security official from Nineveh operation center, adding that ISIS was only 3 kilometers from the Ghizlani military camp.
The United States said the Jihadist militants in Iraq pose a threat to the entire region, voicing deep concern about the “serious situation.”
“It should be clear that ISIL is not only a threat to the stability of Iraq, but a threat to the entire region,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, referring to the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) group.
Meanwhile, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed grave concern about the takeover of Mosul, calling on political leaders to unite in the face of threats.
His spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Ban was “gravely concerned by the serious deteriorating of the security situation in Mosul, where thousands of civilians have been displaced.”
The U.N. chief “strongly condemns the terrorist attacks” across Iraq that have killed and wounded scores of civilians over the past several days and extends his condolences, he added.
“The secretary general urges all political leaders to show national unity against the threats facing Iraq, which can only be addressed on the basis of the constitution and within the democratic political process,” he said.
(With Reuters and AFP)