Mass exodus in northern Iraq as Sunni rebels surge towards Baghdad
Thursday, June 12, 2014 - 02:03
June 12 - Sunni rebel militants, who have taken control of broad swathes of northern Iraq, surge towards the capital, Baghdad, as hundreds of thousands flee the violence in a mass exodus. Mana Rabiee reports.
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As Sunni militants surge towards Baghdad, a mass exodus tries to stay ahead.
Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are fleeing the sweeping violence in the north of the country.
That's where Sunni rebels have overtaken government forces in just a matter of days, and effectively control major population centers.
Many of the displaced families are setting up tents at this camp, near Arbil.
They say rebels are setting up councils to run the towns they capture, one by one.
(SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) DISPLACED WOMAN, ALI AYMAN, SAYING:
"The situation is very quiet, and armed militants are deployed everywhere, and there was a cooperation between them and the people, but it is out of fear, not love. People are afraid of the calm before the storm."
The rebels want to set up a Sunni caliphate on both sides of the Iraq-Syria border.
In Tikrit, militants paraded dozens of captured government forces.
They packed them into trucks, their destination unclear.
In Baghdad, residents prepare for what could be the coming onslaught by stockpiling food and supplies.
(SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) BAGHDAD RESIDENT, ALI JASSIM, SAYING:
"The situation is not good and there is no security, and we do not know what will happen in the days to come."
Crisis, of course, is nothing new to Iraqis.
They've tolerated war and conflict for well over a decade.
(SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) GROCERY SHOP OWNER, HUSSEIN YOUSIF, SAYING:
"We are used to such a situation. We are people that get fed up, but never die and God willing, the days to come will prove that."
But this is, in fact, the biggest threat to Iraq since U.S. troops pulled out in 2011.
Rebel video, that Reuters can't verify, purports to be the Iraq-Syria border.
In it, the fighters declare an end to this post-Ottoman border that was created western powers after World War One.
The fighters have been telling townspeople their final destination is Baghdad.
They're calling the fight for the capital "the decisive battle".
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