First Published: 2014-06-12

Jihadists eye Iraqi capital, Karbala
ISIL militants push south toward Baghdad after capturing Dhuluiyah as parliament meets for emergency session to declare state of emergency.
Middle East Online

Heading to Baghdad

BAGHDAD - Jihadists were pushing toward Baghdad Thursday after capturing a town only 90 kilometres (56 miles) to its north, in a lightning three-day offensive the Iraqi government has failed to stop.

Fighters from the Sunni Muslim Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant seized the town of Dhuluiyah, a municipal councillor, a police colonel and witnesses said by telephone.

The nearby Muatassam area has also fallen to militants, the municipal council member and witnesses said.

ISIL spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani promised the group would push on to Baghdad and Karbala, a city southwest of the capital that is one of the holiest sites for Shiite Muslims, in a statement carried by jihadists websites.

With militants closing in, Iraq's parliament was to meet for an emergency session Thursday to consider a request from Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and the president's office for it to declare a state of emergency.

Doing so requires a two-thirds vote, making it unlikely to pass the sharply divided parliament, which has produced little significant legislation in years and is often poorly attended.

On Wednesday, the militants were repulsed in heavy fighting when they tried to enter Samarra, to the north, bypassing it and heading to Dhuluiyah.

Army Staff Lieutenant General Sabah al-Fatlawi said soldiers and "elite forces" backed by air strikes defeated a "fierce attack by ISIL members," and that troops were regrouping to counter attack.

Samarra is mainly Sunni Arab but is home to a shrine revered by the country's Shiite majority, a site whose bombing by Al-Qaeda-linked militants in 2006 sparked a Shiite-Sunni conflict that killed tens of thousands.

"There is panic among residents," who are buying up goods and forming long queues at petrol stations, Thair Mohammed said from the city.

A resident of Dhuluiyah, Abu Abdullah, said the situation there was calm on Thursday, but people were keeping to their houses.

He said he heard air strikes the night before.

ISIL has spearheaded a major offensive that began late Monday and since overrun the entire northern province of Nineveh and significant parts of Kirkuk to its southeast and Salaheddin to its south.

The offensive began in Nineveh provincial capital Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city. Witnesses said Thursday that people there were increasingly venturing out of their homes and that shops were reopening, but government offices remained shuttered.


Iraq forces press Mosul assault

Clashes, air strikes end Aleppo ceasefire

UN call to extend Yemen truce falls on deaf ears

Turkey reports over 35,000 people in detention after coup attempt

In violation of constitution, Iraq parliament votes to ban alcohol

French FM annoys Turkey by contrasting states of emergency

UN planning for 150,000 displaced by Mosul battle

UAE jails Sudanese man for planning attacks on immigrants

Qatar in 3 days of mourning for former emir

16 civilians dead in bombardment of Syria's rebel-held Idlib

Civilians suffer in IS 'smoke war'

74 jihadists dead after IS assault on Kirkuk

Nearly 100 civilians dead in Turkey-backed Syria op

Kuwait says more work required to counter IS funding

Mosul refugees under IS fire at Syrian border

Morocco king calls for public administration reform

Israeli air force strikes Gaza

Russia not considering renewing Aleppo ceasefire

Israel minister: ‘we will completely destroy’ Gaza in next war

Mosul battle sees highest number of US air strikes yet

Palestinians free four held after visiting settlement during Sukkot

IS executes five Iraqis in western town

Baghdad denies Ankara taking part in Mosul operation

Iraq forces fight to tighten noose around Mosul

Turkey hits Kurdish group in Syria again

Kremlin aims to 'liberate' Syria with Assad in power

Egypt court upholds 20-year sentence for Morsi

Turkey PM warns EU: Turkey has alternatives!

Battles rage in Yemen despite three-day truce

For second day, Iraq forces clash with ISIS in Kirkuk

New report accuses Syria of chemical attack in Qmenas village

Islamic Jihad stages show of force in Gaza

UN says 'crimes' in Aleppo are 'of historic proportions'

IS sniper kills Iraqi journalist in Kirkuk

US official says coalition should target IS in Raqa after Mosul

Moscow extends Aleppo ceasefire

Italy PM says officials should have voted against UNESCO Jerusalem resolution

Syrian ‘Toy Smuggler’ accused of fraud

UN: IS may use civilians as human shields in Mosul

Armed men attack refugee boat off Libya

US says will work with Turkey to deal IS 'lasting defeat'

Moscow ‘highly concerned’ at jihadists’ refusal to leave Aleppo

Four Palestinians arrested by their security forces for settlement visit

Mauritania president says no change to two-term limit

UN delays Aleppo evacuations due to lack of security assurances