Iraqi PM Nouri Maliki responded by asking parliament to declare a state of emergency after sunni militants with Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) overrun Iraq’s second biggest city, Mosul.
The day's developments mean Isis now has effective control over three cities, including Falluja and Ramadi in neighbouring Anbar.
A rebranded version of the al-Qaeda in Iraq organization that the U.S. military said it had quelled before withdrawing its forces in 2011, ISIS has been expanding its reach for months in Iraq and in Syria in pursuit of its goal of creating an Islamic state.
The Iraqi Army apparently crumbled in the face of the militant assault, as soldiers dropped their weapons, shed their uniforms for civilian clothes and blended in with the fleeing masses. The militants freed thousands of prisoners and took over military bases, police stations, banks and provincial headquarters, before raising the black flag of the jihadi group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria over public buildings. The bodies of soldiers, police officers and civilians lay scattered in the streets.
In Washington, the State Department spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, said in a statement that the United States was “deeply concerned about the events that have transpired in Mosul,” and that the Obama administration supported a “strong, coordinated response to push back this aggression.” The statement said the administration would provide “all appropriate assistance to the government of Iraq” and called the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria “not only a threat to the stability of Iraq, but a threat to the entire region.”