Militants in Iraq seize Tikrit, take Turkish diplomats hostage, carry out mass beheadings
By End the Lie
Shortly after Islamist militants captured Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq, militants have almost completely taken over the northern city of Tikrit.
Read our latest: “Iraqi police, military abandon posts and weapons as militants seize Iraq’s 2nd largest city” and “Taliban takes responsibility for Pakistan airport attack: ‘This is just the beginning’”
Witnesses in Tikrit and police officials from Samarra and Baghdad told CNN that heavy fighting has beset the city, which is the hometown of Saddam Hussein.
Two police stations were reportedly set on fire and a military base was taken over by militants, believed to be affiliated with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, known as ISIS or ISIL.
The sources in Tikrit and Samarra told CNN that the governor of the Salaheddin province, of which Tikrit is the capital city, has gone missing. The Telegraph reports that mass beheadings have been reported in northern Iraq.
In Mosul, which is completely controlled by the militants at this point, ISIS militants took dozens of people hostage at the Turkish consulate, according to Bloomberg.
UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon said he was “shocked” to learn of the kidnapping of Turkish diplomats and civilians in Mosul, according to The Telegraph.
An urgent NATO meeting on Iraq was called by a Turkish foreign ministry official. Turkey says that 80 citizens are being held in Mosul at two different locations.
Ban urged the Iraqi government, countries in the region and the international community to do everything in their power to secure the safe release of the diplomats.
“This is totally unacceptable,” Ban said, adding that the perpetrators must be brought to justice.
There are also concerning reports coming out of Baiji, a town north of Baghdad, home to the country’s largest refinery.
Noureddin Qablan, vice chairman of Nineveh provincial council, told Bloomberg that the militants entered the refinery. However, Mohammed Mahmoud, the town’s mayor, said the refinery was under guard by tribesman and police and was working normally.
The State Department also stated that the U.S. understands the refinery “remains under control of the government,” according to The Telegraph.
Raf Sanchez, the Washington correspondent for The Telegraph, reported that the State Department said they have expedited military equipment to Iraqis and will provide undisclosed “additional assistance.”
It is unclear if the military equipment itself would be of much help to the Iraqi military.
The Financial Times thoroughly documented the many shortcomings of the Iraqi security forces in an article Wednesday.
“As an organization, the Iraqi army … represents a poorly led militia, more concerned with protecting its interests as an organization than fighting for an abstract idea that is Iraq,” said Ahmed al-Attar, the assistant director of the Delma Institute, Abu Dhabi-based think tank.
Michael Knights, an Iraq specialist at the Washington Institute think-tank ominously noted that the Iraqi security forces “lack the grit to hold a position if it looks like it is going to be over-run.”
The State Department responded to a question asking if militants are headed to Baghdad in a far from reassuring manner.
“It’s a fluid situation … we’re obviously very concerned,” they said, according to Sanchez.
With the massive gains the militants have already made, and the speed with which they abandoned their posts, the State Department’s concern is more than warranted.
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