Mosul emergency: Anarchy in Iraq as militants seize northern capital and free 1,200 prisoners in jail break

Refugees pour out of the country’s northern capital after it was captured by a terrorist group considered more extreme than al-Qa’ida. Will the West have to intervene again?

Islamic militants have captured Iraq’s northern capital, Mosul, in a devastating defeat for the Iraqi government, whose forces fled the city discarding weapons and uniforms.

The victory by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis) is likely to transform the politics of the Middle East as foreign powers realise that an al-Qa’ida-type group has gained control over a large part of northern Iraq and northern Syria. The US said it supported a “strong, co-ordinated response to push back against this aggression”.

An Iraqi army colonel admitted: “We have lost Mosul this morning. Army and police forces left their positions and Isis terrorists are in full control. It’s a total collapse of the security forces.”

As well as police stations, army bases and the airport, the insurgents have captured two prisons and freed 1,200 prisoners, many of them Isis fighters. Roads out of Mosul are choked with refugees heading for what they hope is safety in Kurdish-held territory.

A university lecturer from a well-known family in Mosul told The Independent: “Mosul has fallen completely into the hands of the terrorists. Everyone is fleeing. It’s after midnight here. We are also packing up to leave home, but we have no idea where to go.”

In Baghdad the Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, has asked parliament to declare a state of emergency and called on the international community to support Iraq in its fight against “terrorism”.

But in the streets of the capital, where the population is mostly Shia, there is growing panic and fear that Isis forces may take the Sunni city of Tikrit, which they are approaching, and then move on to Baghdad. Burning vehicles belonging to Iraqi security forces during clashes in the northern Iraq city of Mosul (Reuters) Burning vehicles belonging to Iraqi security forces during clashes in the northern Iraq city of Mosul (Reuters)

One woman in Baghdad, who did not want to give her name, said: “People are buying up food and may not come to work tomorrow because they think the situation is going to get worse.”

She added that her relatives in Mosul who had been living in the western part of the city, which is bisected by the Tigris River, have moved to the eastern side that contains large Kurdish districts and is defended by well-trained and resolute Kurdish Peshmerga troops. She said: “People in Mosul have seen government forces run away so they think the government will use aircraft to bomb Mosul indiscriminately.”

Mosul is a majority Sunni Arab city and traditionally the home of many families that joined the Iraqi army under Saddam Hussein. His defence minister was normally somebody from the area. Ever since the US-led invasion in 2003, control of the city by Baghdad has been unstable. In 2004 it was stormed by Sunni insurgents who captured most of it and held it for three days until they retreated after the US military appealed to the Kurds to send Peshmerga units from Dohuk inside the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).


Could this happen again? Many of the refugees fleeing towards the KRG and the Kurdish capital, Arbil, are Sunni Arabs but they are likely to be joined by members of small sects and ethnic groups such as the Yazidis and Shabak, whom Isis might kill.

The Kurds lay claim to large parts of Nineveh province though not to Mosul itself. The Isis success shows that the local Sunni political leadership has little influence since the governor Atheel Nujaifi only narrowly escaped from his provincial headquarters before Isis captured it. His brother Osama, the Speaker of parliament, called on Massoud Barzani, President of the KRG, to send Peshmerga to recapture Mosul from “terrorists”.

Iraqis fleeing violence in Mosul wait in their vehicles at a Kurdish checkpoint (Getty) Iraqis fleeing violence in Mosul wait in their vehicles at a Kurdish checkpoint (Getty)
What will the Iraqi government do now? It could counter-attack and in theory it has 900,000 soldiers under arms. But the Iraqi army is more of a patronage system to provide jobs rather than a trained military force.

Though Isis took Falluja, 40 miles west of Baghdad, in January the government has shelled it and dropped barrel bombs but has failed to retake it. Soldiers in Anbar province, where much of the fighting has been concentrated, complain that money for their food and fuel is embezzled by officers and many have deserted.

Even so, the failure of the Iraqi armed forces to fight in Mosul is very striking. “We can’t beat them,” one officer told a news agency. “They’re trained in street fighting and we’re not. We need a whole army to drive them out of Mosul. They’re like ghosts; they appear to hit and disappear within seconds.”

The scene of a car bomb attack in Tuz Khurmato, between Mosul and Baghdad, on Monday. At least 20 people died (EPA) The scene of a car bomb attack in Tuz Khurmato, between Mosul and Baghdad, on Monday. At least 20 people died (EPA)
Two army officers claim that the security forces were ordered out of the city after the fall of the Ghizlani base which had contained 200 prisoners in a high-security prison. A further 1,000 inmates escaped from a prison called Badush, west of the city. The army and police set fire to fuel dumps and ammunition depots as they retreated, but there is no doubt that the insurgents will have captured large quantities of weapons.

Isis has grown swiftly in strength over the past three years under the leadership of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, also known as Abu Dua, who took over in 2010 after its previous commanders were killed. It has since become highly organised and controlled from the centre, but without becoming less merciless and fanatical. Its propaganda films frequently show non-Sunni Muslims being executed and its reputation for savagery may have helped demoralise the Iraqi security forces in Mosul.

The resurgence of Isis is also explained by the Iraqi Sunni, some five or six million, being emboldened by the revolt of the Sunni in Syria in 2011. Peaceful protests mutated into armed action. The Sunni uprisings in Iraq and Syria have combined into one crisis.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Voices
News
people
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
News
Kristen Stewart and Rupert Sanders were pictured embracing in 2012
people
News
President Obama, one of the more enthusiastic users of the fist bump
scienceBumping fists rather than shaking hands could reduce the spread of infectious diseases, it is claimed
Sport
Mario Balotelli posed for this selfie during AC Milan's 5-1 defeat to Manchester City
sport
Sport
Laura Trott with her gold
Commonwealth Games
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
arts + ents
News
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
people
Sport
France striker Loic Remy
sportThe QPR striker flew to Boston earlier in the week to complete deal
Extras
indybestSpice up your knife with our selection of delicious toppings
Sport
sport
News
Orville and Keith Harris. He covered up his condition by getting people to read out scripts to him
People
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

M&E Construction Planner Solihull

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Car, Healthcare, Pensions: Progressive Recruitment...

Senior Java Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Leading Sof...

Chemistry Teacher

£90 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education are looking fo...

SEN Teaching Assistant Runcorn

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant EBD , Septemb...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried