Iraq Kurds take Kirkuk as Sunni militants surge toward Baghdad
Thursday, June 12, 2014 - 01:52
June 12 - Iraqi Kurds take control of Kirkuk after government forces abandon their posts, in the face of a sweeping Islamist rebel push towards Baghdad that threatens Iraq's future as a unified state. Mana Rabiee reports.
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Iraqi security forces clash with Sunni militants near Kirkuk, to the north.
The Islamist rebels have taken control of cities and towns north of Baghdad.
Oil-rich Kirkuk was also at stake.
But amid the sweeping advance of rebels, government forces abandoned their posts on Thursday and Kirkuk fell into the hands of Kurds.
They run an autonomous region here and consider Kirkuk their historical capital.
In just a matter of days, Sunni rebels called ISIL, they're an off shoot of al Qaeda, have effectively seized control of Iraq's main population centers in the north.
This amateur video, which Reuters can't independently verify, purports to show an ISIL rebel fighter addressing a crowd of supporters.
The rebels want to set up a strict Sunni caliphate on both sides of the Iraq-Syria frontier.
These are the men the government hopes can push the rebels back.
Hundreds of volunteers have been arriving at army recruitment centers in Basra to join in the fight.
(SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) VOLUNTEER, GHALIB AUDAH, SAYING:
"I came with my son to join the army. I am against the the ISIL that want to assault us and take our Iraq."
(SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) VOLUNTEER, MOHAMMED HADI, SAYING:
"The reason behind me recruiting is the security events in Mosul and Ramadi, where our soldiers were martyred and our army retreated, because of the terrorists and ISIL, so we have come to serve Iraq."
But the rebels continued their lighting advance on Thursday towards Baghdad.
And the army of Iraq's Shiite-led government has essentially fled in the face of the onslaught.
The rebels have swept into towns just an hour's drive from Baghdad.
And their advance now threatens Iraq's very future as a unified state.
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