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.

 

UN Security Council warns against holding Iraqi Kurd vote

Barzani delays Kurdish independence vote announcement

Iran defies US, tests missile

Yemen leader promises UN to open entire country to aid

Saudi Arabia marks national day with fireworks, concerts

Turkey warns of 'security' steps in response to Iraqi Kurd vote

Syria's war off the radar at UN assembly

For many Iraqis, tradition trumps police

Darfur clashes kill 3 as Bashir urges reconciliation

Saudi cleric banned for saying women have ‘quarter’ brain

Veteran Syrian activist, daughter assassinated in Istanbul

Tunisia drops forced anal exams for homosexuality

Bomb used in Saudi-led strike on Yemen children US-made

Syria Kurds vote to cement federal push

Police charge teenager over London Underground attack

Nigerian official to meet Turkish counterpart over illegal guns

Thousands feared trapped in Raqa as IS mounts last stand

Iraqi forces achieve first step in new offensive on IS

Migrant boat sinks off Turkish Black Sea coast leaving four dead, 20 missing

Trump praises 'friend' Erdogan

Rouhani vows Iran will boost missiles despite US criticism

Russia clashes with EU over Syria

UN sets up probe of IS war crimes in Iraq

US, Iranian top diplomats confront each other for first time

Air strikes kill 22 civilians in northwest Syria in 48 hours

Iranian supreme leader lashes out at Trump UN speech

Thousands of Huthi supporters mark 3 years since Sanaa takeover

Iraq attacks all remaining IS territory at once

Moscow accuses US of hitting Syrian regime forces

Turkey jails lawyers representing hunger striking teachers

Turkey, Iran and Iraq make joint threat against Kurd vote

Syrian Kurds to hold first local elections in federal push

Qatari expats lauded as statesmen by Arab critics

Shipwreck off Libyan coast leaves over 100 migrants missing

Will Turkey’s opposition to Kurdish state translate into action?

US ups the ante on Iraq Kurds

Macron: Iran nuclear deal no longer enough

Trump’s mind made up on Iran but refuses to divulge

Scores of Iraqis missing during war against ISIS

Netanyahu rejects calls for mixed gender worship at Western Wall

Russia accuses US of missile treaty breach

Iran TV translator mocked for watering down Trump speech

Saudi Arabia hopes Kurdish referendum will not take place

Saudi invites women to sports stadium for first time

Saudi set to create $2.7 billion investment company