Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said the government in Baghdad will work with Kurdish authorities in the north to push insurgents out of Mosul, after Islamist militants seized control of the city.
source: Iranian daily Arman
Zebari said Wednesday that Iraq's leaders must unite to face what he called a "serious, mortal threat" facing the country.
He pledged a quick response to Tuesday's seizure of Iraq's second largest city, which was a stunning defeat for the country's Shi'ite-led government.
The International Organization for Migration said Wednesday that fears of further violence in Mosul caused 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.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said the country is "undergoing a difficult stage." He asked parliament to call an urgent session to declare a state of emergency.
The speaker of the Iraqi parliament, 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. 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,' he said.
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.
Terrorists' dream of capturing Iraq
cartoon by Ali Jahanshahi, Shargh, Tehran
The takeover of Mosul was the latest blow against the Iraqi government's attempt to control the growing insurgency by an offshoot al-Qaida group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. 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 it controls in eastern Syria and western Iraq.
Iraq is dealing with its worst violence since 2008, with the U.N. saying that about 4,500 people have been killed this year. More than 900 of the deaths came last month.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.
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