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.

 

Turkish President declares 3-month state of emergency

Russian warplanes targeted US, British outpost in Syria

Libya unity govt blasts French military presence

Mali renews state of emergency after deadly attack

Syrians harness Pokemon frenzy to depict their plight

Bodies of 14 'executed' people found in Libya's Benghazi

UN to help Turkey bolster tourism sector

France to supply weapons to Iraqi army

Turkey tensions fester in Germany

Israel official on first visit to Chad in 40 years

EU condemns 'unacceptable' Turkey purges

Iran stops 'terrorist infiltration' from Turkey

Moscow restarts air travel to Turkey

Assad says Erdogan is 'implementing his own extremist agenda'

Egypt's Sisi says 'serious efforts' made in Palestine peace process

43 civilians dead as regime bombards rebel-held areas in Syria

UN pleads for weekly 48-hour truce in Syria's Aleppo

Kuwait upholds death for Iran spy cell 'mastermind'

Iran arrests 40 over 'terrorist' plots

US-backed forces give IS '48 hours' to leave Syria's Manbij

Syria activists urge protests over deadly coalition raids

Kuwait issues ultimatum to Yemen negotiators

Turkey coup plotters go on trial in Greece

Erdogan critics fear what may come next

ISIS bomb kills 4 in Yemen's Aden

Outrage after Syrian rebel group beheads child

Israel parliament passes law allowing expulsion of Palestinian MPs

Europol warns 'Lone wolf' terror attacks hard to track

Turkey blocks WikiLeaks email dump on ruling party

Three French soldiers killed in Libya

Turkey's battle with PKK continues through coup drama

Saudi carries out 99 executions this year

Turkey bans academics from work trips abroad

Beijing policies pushing Chinese Muslims to join IS

Canada pledges $158 million in humanitarian aid to Iraq

French PM: There will be other attacks

Iraq PM faces challenge to replace resigning ministers

Erdogan returns to Ankara after coup

European envoys complain over Israel policy of demolitions

Presidential spokesman says 'nonsensical' to claim Erdogan orchestrated Turkey coup

Iraq officers accuse Kurdish forces of torturing soldiers

Turkish ambassador urges Greece to return coup plotters

Turkey widens post-coup purge to state education sector

ISIS releases video of Germany train attacker

Erdogan and the Army: Why Now?