Militants occupy almost half of Iraq’s second largest city

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Azzaman, June 7, 2014

Large numbers of gunmen have stormed the northern city of Mosul and are currently in control of almost half of its residential quarters, residents inside the city said.

The assault on Mosul comes as insurgent groups have widened their area of control mainly in the predominantly Muslim Sunni provinces such as Anbar, Salahudeen and Diyala.

Fighting is raging in these provinces but the attack on Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, took the government by surprise.

Mosul is the capital of the Province of Nineveh. A predominantly Sunni city, it is Iraq’s second largest in terms of population.

The militants, believed to number more than 3,000, were divided into fighting groups but brandished no banners in order to conceal their identity.

Residents say ambulances were seen carrying those killed or wounded in the ongoing fighting.

Initial reports spoke of at least 15 people killed and scores injured as the militants spread their control from quarter to quarter, overrunning several police stations on Friday.

Rapid deployment forces were reported to have dispatched from Baghdad to stem the militant advance and launch a counterattack.

A senior police officer, refusing to be named, said the insurgents were deploying suicide bombing techniques, signaling that their ranks might have been infiltrated by members of the Iraq-based Jihadist group ISIS.

The officer said two suicide car bombings targeted a village inhabited by Shebeks, an Iraqi Kurdish Shiite minority, whose members have repeated been attacked by Jihadist groups in Mosul.

The Shebeks number about half a million and are mainly concentrated in villages in the outskirts of Mosul.

They had their own residential quarters inside Mosul, but most of them have fled the city to nearly villages.

The officer said four policemen were killed and others wounded when the insurgents attacked and then overrun their station in one of the residential areas they have occupied.

Most of the fighting is concentrated on the left bank of the city which is divided into almost two equal parts by the River Tigris.

Reports speak of thousands of people trying to flee the areas under militant control amid fears of an imminent counterattack by elite government forces.