June 10, 2014 - 14:40 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Islamist militants have seized key buildings of Mosul on Tuesday, June 10, effectively taking control of Iraq's second largest city, BBC News reported.
Overnight, hundreds of men armed with rocket-propelled grenades, sniper rifles and machine-guns seized the provincial government's headquarters. They also destroyed several police stations before moving towards a top-security prison and military airport.
Iraq's parliamentary speaker said "terrorists" now controlled all Mosul and called for troop reinforcements.
In the past week, the jihadist Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) and its allies have carried out major attacks on cities and towns in western and northern Iraq, killing scores of people.
The BBC says militants from ISIS have been informally controlling much of Nineveh province for months, imposing tolls of the movement of goods and demanding protection money from local officials. Now, after five days of fierce fighting around key buildings, it seems they have effectively taken control of Mosul, which has a population approaching two million.
On Monday, Nineveh Governor Atheel al-Nujaifi made a televised plea to the city's residents, calling on them to resist.
"I call upon the men of Mosul to stand firm in their areas and to defend them against the strangers and to form public committees in their districts to help their people and to protect their areas," he said.
But Nujaifi fled shortly before the provincial government's headquarters fell to the onslaught late on Monday night.
On Tuesday, several residents told the Associated Press that black flags associated with jihadist groups were flying from buildings and that the militants had announced over loudspeaker that they had "come to liberate Mosul and would fight only those who attack them".
"The situation is chaotic inside the city and there is nobody to help us," said Umm Karam, a government employee. "We are afraid... There is no police or army in Mosul."
An interior ministry official admitted that soldiers had fled after removing their uniforms, telling AFP news agency: "The city of Mosul is outside the control of the state and at the mercy of the militants."
Osama al-Nujaifi, the speaker of parliament and brother of Nineveh's governor, said he had asked the U.S. ambassador for help. He called on the Iraqi government and Kurdistan Regional Government to urgently send reinforcements to Mosul to "fight the terrorists".
The Turkish government meanwhile said it was investigating reports that 28 Turkish lorry drivers had been taken hostage in Nineveh.
The fighting in Mosul has already displaced more than 4,800 people. It comes as the Iraqi authorities struggle with a surge in sectarian violence that killed almost 800 people, including 603 civilians, in May alone, according to the UN. Last year, more than 8,860 people died.
Parts of Ramadi, the capital of the western province of Anbar, and much of the nearby city of Falluja have been under the control of ISIS and its allies since late December, with security forces unable to dislodge them.
Also on Tuesday, at least 15 people were killed and 27 wounded in a bomb attack on a funeral in the central city of Baqouba, officials told AP.