As it happened: Iraq Islamist insurgency

Key Points

  • Iraqi Kurdish forces say they have taken full control of the northern oil city of Kirkuk
  • Sunni Muslim insurgents vowed to march on to Baghdad, after seizing cities of Mosul and Tikrit
  • Parliament delays voting on request to grant PM emergency powers after it fails to reach a quorum
  • Government forces reportedly launch air raids against militants in Tikrit and Mosul
  • The US says it is considering further assistance to Iraq, without giving details.
  • All times GMT

    Hello and welcome to the BBC's live coverage of the Islamist insurgency in Iraq. The militants - led by an al-Qaeda offshoot called the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) - are continuing their offensive after capturing two major cities earlier this week.


    Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has vowed to fight back against the insurgents. He has also called on parliament to declare a state of emergency.


    Meanwhile, Iraqi Kurdish forces say they have taken full control of the northern oil-reach city of Kirkuk to protect it against the Sunni insurgents.


    The fall of the city of Mosul - Iraq's second-largest - has sent shock waves across the Middle East. Here's a map showing the recent developments.


    The insurgents are believed to be attempting to push further south, to Baghdad and regions run by Iraq's Shia Muslim majority. In a video recording, ISIS spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani reportedly told fighters to "march towards Baghdad" because they had "an account to settle".


    Meanwhile, in neighbouring Iran the Supreme National Security Council will meet later on Thursday to discuss the crisis in the region, Iran's official news agency Irna says.

    Frank Gardner BBC security correspondent

    Are British jihadists among the ISIS fighters who've taken over Mosul and other cities in Iraq? Earlier this week the indications were that all UK jihadists with ISIS were still in Syria, not Iraq, but that could now be changing.


    The Iraqi army appears to have fled Kirkuk. "The whole of Kirkuk has fallen into the hands of peshmerga (local Kurdish fighters)," Kurdish spokesman Jabbar Yawar told Reuters. "No Iraq army remains in Kirkuk now."


    Iraq's Kurds view Kirkuk as their historical capital, and have long hoped to incorporate the city into their autonomous region in the north.


    The militants overran Mosul on Tuesday and then continued moving south.

    An Iraqi army uniform lies on the ground in front of of a burnt Iraqi army vehicle near Mosul

    Kirkuk and the surrounding province of Tamim are at the heart of a political and economic dispute between Iraq's Arabs and Kurds. Much of the tension stems from Saddam Hussein's programme of "Arabisation", which drove Kurds from Kirkuk and replaced them with settlers from the south, ensuring Baghdad's control of nearby oil fields.


    The Kurdish regional government, which administers three provinces to the north-east, believes Arabisation should be reversed, and that it should control Kirkuk and the oil fields.


    However the Arab-led central government, together with the local Turkmen community, maintains that Kirkuk should remain under its control and that the oil should be a national resource.


    Who are the fighters from Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS)? The BBC has written a profile of the jihadist group.

    Image from video released by ISIS on 4 January 2014 ISIS says it has hundreds of foreign jihadists among its ranks

    UK Deputy PM Nick Clegg described the situation in Iraq as "incredibly serious" during his phone-in radio show on LBC. However, he said UK armed forces should not get involved.

    Hayden Richards in London

    tweets: The Iraq war was 'supposed' to restore democracy. Instead it has caused more bloodshed than ever imagined. I despair of this world.


    "Baghdad is a ghost city - everyone is terrified and planning to leave or making own security plan, saving fuel or food," blogger Noof Assi told BBC World Service radio programme Outside Source.


    The BBC's diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus traces the steps that have led Iraq to the brink of its latest crisis in his piece "Six things that went wrong for Iraq".


    Iran has cancelled pilgrim tours to the Kadhimiya district of Baghdad, home to one of Shia Islam's holiest shrines. Flights to Baghdad will be transferred to Shia holy city of Najaf, to the south, from Friday. Pilgrims are also being told to avoid Samarra, where another shrine is located.

    Breaking News

    Iraq's parliamentary session has been postponed due to lack of quorum. The meeting was intended to vote on the government's call for the state of emergency.


    Only 128 out of 325 MPs attended parliament, forcing the session to be delayed.


    Iraqi security forces left their positions as Kurdish fighters took over Kirkuk.

    Iraqi security forces leave a military base as Kurdish forces take over control in Kirkuk, 11 June 2014
    Nadim Houry, Human Rights Watch deputy director

    tweets: Prospect of ISIS ruling big parts of Iraq terrifying. Real issue is to defeat them without brutal self-defeating tactics punishing civilians


    What would happen if the insurgents move south into Baghdad? Middle East and Kurdish analyst Bashdar Ismaeel told the BBC World Service: "I do think Baghdad is a different story altogether, simply because of the Shia strength in Baghdad and the surrounding area".


    US security analyst Anthony Cordesman argues that the crisis has been caused by political failures and poor leadership. He has written a detailed analysis for the BBC.

    Mina Al-Oraibi, Iraqi journalist in London

    tweets: Talks in Baghdad about state of emergency is abt political dynamic&fears of Maliki using powers 2stay in office-not abt security of citizens


    "They call themselves the revolutionaries. They told us not to be scared and that they came to liberate and free us from oppression," a man who fled Mosul with his family said. Other residents have been describing how their lives changed after the city's takeover by the ISIS.

    Jane Arraf, Journalist and Reporter

    tweets: #Mosul residents report oddly quiet ISIS takeover of city after withdrawal of Iraqi forces, say families assured they won't be harmed.


    UK Foreign Secretary William Hague has said London's response to the crisis will not go beyond possible humanitarian assistance. "Britain won't be getting involved militarily," Mr Hague told the BBC.


    Kurdish fighters are seen by many regional analysts as a bulwark against Sunni Muslim insurgents.

    Kurdish Iraqi peshmerga forces deploy their troops and armoured vehicles on the outskirts of Kirkuk, 12 June 2014

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says the seizure of Iraqi cities by jihadist fighters is a clear sign of the "total failure" of the US-led invasion in 2003. "The unity of Iraq is at risk," he is quoted as saying by Itar-Tass news agency.

    Justine Greening, Britain's International Development Secretary

    tweets: I have deployed @DFID_UK team to Iraq to assess & monitor growing humanitarian crisis.


    The Kurdish security minister has survived a bomb blast in Kirkuk, AFP news agency reports, citing an officer.


    Iraq's ambassador to France calls on the UN Security Council to approve extra military aid for Baghdad, including air and drone support, when it meets in New York later on Thursday, according to Reuters.


    Turkey is watching developments closely after 80 Turks were seized by insurgents on Wednesday. The government says it will do whatever necessary to secure their release.


    More on the attack on the Kurdish minister (see 11:30 entry). The local Rudaw newspaper describes him as the "minister of peshmerga affairs". It adds that the convoy he was travelling in came under attack and one soldier was killed.


    Al-Jazeera TV has reported that militant groups are trying to storm Samarra, a city north of Baghdad. Samarra is a mainly Sunni city, but it is also a major centre of pilgrimage for Shias. (BBC Monitoring)


    Up to 500,000 people are believed to have fled Mosul as a result of the insurgency.

    An Iraqi family rests in a tent at a temporary camp near Arbil, 12 June 2014

    Samarra is believed to be the birthplace of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who has been careful to reveal little about himself and his current whereabouts. See our profile on him.


    Iraq's independent newspapers have criticised PM Maliki for what they see as his failings. Al-Mada daily says Mr Maliki and his military team should be put on trial, while a commentary in al-Dustur says he "failed to galvanise or mobilise the public" in his televised speech on Wednesday. (BBC Monitoring).

    Katty Kay, BBC World News America in Washington

    tweets: Member of House Foreign Relations Cttee tells me what we are seeing in Iraq is in large part consequence of US taking its eye off situ there


    Some Iraqi soldiers who fled Mosul have said they feel betrayed by their military leaders. One soldier told AP: "We were fighting but our leaders betrayed us.... (the commanders) left the military behind. When we woke up all the leaders left".


    Security has been stepped up in the capital, Baghdad, following threats by the Sunni militants to march on the capital.

    A member of the Iraqi security forces mans a checkpoint in Baghdad. Photo: 12 June 2014

    Former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi has told the BBC's Martha Kearney on the World at One that foreign intervention would "add fuel to the fire".


    Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has said Tehran "will not tolerate" what he calls the "terrorist violence" of ISIS in Iraq, BBC Monitoring reports quoting Iran's Irinn TV channel.

    Brooks Newmark, British MP for Braintree

    tweets: With #ISIS now in Tikrit as well as Mosul + Anbar Province #Iraq is swiftly descending into the chaos of its neighbour Syria - Baghdad next?


    UK Foreign Secretary William Hague has told the BBC the Iraqi government must take the lead in dealing with militant unrest and violence in the country.

    William Hague

    The New York Times has mapped all the places in Syria and Iraq where ISIS has been fighting for control.

    Tim Marshall, Sky News Foreign Correspondent

    tweets: US will supply kit for increased Iraq Gov airstrikes, but will not undertake those airstrikes itself says White House source to Reuters.


    US air power might help the Iraqi military hold the line against ISIS but it can only really have an impact in conjunction with capable forces on the ground, writes the BBC's Jonathan Marcus.


    Hundreds of Iraqi police have been taken prisoner in the city of Tikrit, Reuters is reporting.


    The Nato secretary general is demanding an immediate release of Turkish hostages in Iraq, the AFP news agency reports.


    The price of oil has risen to its highest level in three months on fears the escalating violence in Iraq could hit supplies from Opec's second-biggest exporter, the Financial Times reports (behind paywall). It says Brent crude oil rose $2 to $112.29 a barrel on Thursday- a level last reached in March.


    More on Nato's reaction to the seizure of Turkish nationals in Iraq (see 13:00 entry). Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen says: "We urge the hostage takers to release the hostages immediately." He also says he doesn't see a role for the alliance in Iraq.


    In Baghdad, crowds have been gathering near the main army recruiting centre to volunteer for military service. Many reportedly chanted slogans against ISIS militants.

    Iraqi men and a soldier chant anti-ISIS slogans in Baghdad. Photo: 12 June 2014

    The BBC's Jim Muir, who is at a checkpoint near the city of Irbil, in a Kurd-run area, says he's seen some people who fled the advance of ISIS already starting to return. He told the World Service's Newshour programme that "they say, OK, ISIS might be in control but we're hearing from friends and families things are stable, and quiet, so we're going back home".


    Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish MP, tells the BBC World Service's Newshour programme: "[The Kurds] are ready to fight ISIS, with the Iraqi government, if the Iraqi government asked for that. A lot of Iraqi army troops have been withdrawing, so the Kurds have been taking their place in those areas."

    Mohamad Ali Harissi AFP Baghdad

    tweets: #Iraq state tv broadcasting patriotic songs all day long. All. Day. Long.

    Image from Iraq state TV

    The Iraqi air force has bombed insurgent positions in and around the city of Mosul, Reuters quotes state TV as saying.


    Iraq's appeals for a military help from the US have been rejected by the White House, which is "reluctant to open a new chapter in a conflict that President Obama has insisted was over when the US withdrew the last of its forces from Iraq in 2011", The New York Times reports.


    John Drake, a security analyst with AKE Group, tell the AFP news agency that the crisis "could aid the Kurdistan region" which will not now "face the same challenges from Baghdad as in the past because the federal authorities are evidently in an extremely poor position to do anything about the situation".


    The Guardian's Martin Chulov says that "there is a feeling in Baghdad that the enemy is at the gate".


    ISIS has published rules of conduct for residents of the Iraqi city of Mosul and its surrounding province. In a statement, it says all Muslim residents are ordered to attend the mosque for the five daily prayers, while alcohol and smoking are banned. Police and soldiers are told to repent or be killed, and women are ordered to dress decently and only go out if necessary.


    Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, who is in London, is quoted by AFP news agency as saying that ISIS militants are "on the run" in some areas, including Mosul, after the security forces fought back.


    More families fleeing the violence in Mosul are arriving at checkpoints on the outskirts of Irbil, in Iraq's Kurdistan region. Some 500,000 people hare believed to have left the city since the violence broke out.

    Families arrive at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Irbil

    "The possibility that ISIS will repeat the atrocities it has committed in other parts of Iraq - and impose the same intolerant and abusive rule as it has in Syria, is deeply troubling," said Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

    Ian Pannell BBC International Correspondent

    tweets: "The integrity of Iraq is in question" the Iraqi Ambassador to Washington tells me. #ISIS is an existential threat @FailyLukman @BBCNewsUS


    ISIS had been on the wane in Iraq but gained "men, money and machines" through its involvement in the Syrian conflict, Shiraz Maher, a senior fellow at King's College London told the BBC World Service programme, Newshour.


    Insurgents have surrounded Iraq's biggest refinery in the northern town of Baiji, police and an engineer inside are quoted by Reuters as saying.


    Some experts will not be surprised by the latest crisis in Iraq, CNN reports. It says that for years, many analysts have predicted that various factors - "some rooted in history, some of them related to recent big decisions, some functions of what's happening in the region" - could trigger violence in the country.

    Phillip Smyth, Researcher at University of Maryland

    tweets: We should be less concerned with what a potential map of the future Iraq will look like and more with who will be running the new entities.


    Members of the Iraqi military, who fled the northern city of Mosul in recent days, have been queuing to buy tickets for flights to Baghdad, the Associated Press reports. They told the news agency they wanted to rebuild the military and return to the cities seized by ISIS.

    Iraqi troops queueing outside Iraqi Airways

    The International Rescue Committee, a humanitarian aid organisation, says it is monitoring the affects of the latest violence on internally displaced Iraqis as well as Syrian refugees in the country. "The potential toxic brew of two neighbouring countries in such a volatile region imploding has grave humanitarian consequences," it said in a statement.

    Martin Chulov The Guardian

    tweets: Baathists fighters prominent in Tikrit. V few #ISIS flags there - evidence of Saddam old guard in insurgency #Iraq #news


    Iraqi forces have launched air strikes on militants occupying the former palace compound of ex-leader Saddam Hussein in his home city of Tikrit, witnesses told AFP news agency.

    Danny Gold, Head staff writer at Vice News

    tweets: Surprised Iraqi sunnis and baathists haven't learned from FSA and other Syrian rebels: ISIS are not the best allies


    Reports are continuing to emerge about hundreds of soldiers and police officers being held by militants in Tikrit, but this is so far unconfirmed.


    The seizure of Mosul and attacks on Tikrit by ISIS are "not an immediate threat to Iraq's oil production, or the ratings of Western investment-grade oil companies", Fitch Ratings says. But it warns that if the fighting spreads - and the market begins to question whether Iraq can increase its output in line with forecasts - "there could be a sharp rise in world oil prices".


    Dozens of members of a police special forces battalion were paraded on the back of a truck in Tikrit after they were captured by fighters who overran their base, Reuters reports.

    Gunmen travel on an army truck with members of a police special forces battalion after the latter were captured by the fighters, in Tikrit on 12 June 2014

    "ISIS just got extremely rich", The Washington Post's Terrence McCoy writes. He says gunmen entering the city of Mosul reportedly took Iraqi dinars worth $425m (£523m, 314m euros) from the city's central bank. Of the many revelations to emerge from the wreckage of the city, this "may have the most lasting impact as Iraq descends into a possible civil war", he says.


    Iraqi TV coverage of the crisis reflects a country ridden with political dissatisfaction, and split along sectarian and ethnic lines, BBC Monitoring says. Channels loyal to PM Nouri Maliki are rallying Iraqis to fight and cleanse Iraq of "terrorists". Meanwhile Sunni channels present the latest advances by the insurgents as part of an uprising against "Maliki's army" while avoiding any specific mention of ISIS.


    There here has been a sharp rise in the price of crude oil, due to concerns that the situation in Iraq might lead to a disruption of supplies, the BBC's Economic Correspondent Andrew Walker reports. He says that the price of Brent crude - a leading international benchmark - rose $2 to a three-month-high at over over $112 a barrel.


    Caroline Anning of Save the Children tells BBC News Online that humanitarian organisations on the border of Iraq's Kurdish provinces are dealing with a "fast-moving and chaotic exodus of thousands of civilians". "The roads are complete pandemonium," she says. "Families, children and the most vulnerable people are waiting in days-long queues without access to food and water."

    The World Food Programme

    tweets: As families flee #Mosul #Iraq, @WFP team assesses food needs on Kurdish border at Kalak crossing.

    WFP food distribution at Kalak crossing

    Save the Children's Caroline Anning tells BBC News Online: "This could be one of the swiftest mass movement of people we have ever seen."


    "The danger from ISIS is not just creating failed states out of Iraq and Syria but spawning a failed region," Robin Wright writes in the Wall Street Journal.


    The performance of the Iraqi army in the face of attack this week has clearly dismayed the United States and its allies, who have invested so much in it, says the BBC's Nick Childs. But, despite the stakes, there is no appetite for renewed, direct military intervention in either Washington or London.


    A burned-out armoured vehicle belonging to the Iraqi army sits on a street in the northern city of Mosul.

    Burnt out vehicle in Mosul

    US Senator Lindsey Graham, briefed by the Pentagon on Iraq, is quoted by The Guardian as saying: "What I heard today scared the hell out of me. The briefing was chilling… Iraq is falling apart."


    France is urging "reconciliation and unity" in Iraq, the French foreign ministry says. "The situation in Iraq is very worrisome and poses a serious threat to the stability of the entire region," a spokesman said.

    Ed Husain Author

    tweets: Hillary Clinton makes a powerful point that Afghan leadership is watching Iraq today. I think the Taliban is observing #ISIS closely + planning.


    If ISIS can hold Mosul and consolidate its presence there it will have taken a giant step towards its goal of creating an Islamist emirate that straddles Iraq and Syria, the BBC's Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen says. "It would be the most significant act by a jihadist group since al-Qaeda attacked the United States on 11 September 2001."


    More from the BBC's Jeremy Bowen: "The success of ISIS can only make the turmoil in the Middle East worse. ISIS is an ultra-extremist Sunni Muslim group. Its success will deepen the sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shias that is already the most dangerous fault line in the Middle East."


    The UNHCR, the UN's refugee agency, has tweeted this photo of families displaced from the city of Mosul.

    Refugees in Mosul

    US Vice President Joe Biden has called Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki to discuss Iraq's deepening security crisis, a US official quoted by Reuters says. No details on the conversation were immediately available.

    16:50: Breaking News

    President Barack Obama says that Iraq will need "additional assistance" from the US to push back the insurgents. "I don't rule anything out," he says.


    President Obama says there will be "short-term immediate actions that need to be done militarily in Iraq".


    The United Nations Security Council is meeting behind closed doors to discuss the crisis in Iraq. The council is due to be briefed by the UN envoy in Iraq, Nockolay Mladenov, via video-link from Baghdad.


    Afzal Ashraf, a retired Group Captain in the RAF who spent time with a multinational force in Iraq, told BBC Radio 4's PM programme that the seizure of Mosul, Tikrit and Kirkuk revealed that the Iraqi army lacked a willingness to die or kill for the government's cause.


    The president added: "I don't rule out anything because we do have a stake in making sure these jihadists are not getting a permanent foothold in Iraq, or Syria for that matter."


    Mr Obama also said recent events should be a "wake-up call" for the Iraqi government.


    "We have not seen trust develop between moderate Shia and Sunni leaders within Iraq ," Mr Obama said, adding this "accounts for some of the weakness of the state".


    The US president made his remarks at the White House in a press conference with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

    National Security Adviser Susan Rice, second from left, talks with Vice President Joe Biden, centre, and Secretary of State John Kerry in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington 12 June 2014

    National Security Advisor Susan Rice (left), Vice-President Joe Biden, and Secretary of State John Kerry (right) were in the Oval Office as Mr Obama responded to the events in Iraq.


    When asked if the US should consider air strikes, House Speaker John Boehner said "we should provide the equipment and the technical assistance that the Iraqis have been asking for".


    A senior US official tells Associated Press news agency that drone missions in Iraq is one option but no decision had yet been made.


    Republican Senator Lindsey Graham is not as circumspect as his House colleague. "Iraq is collapsing as I speak... There is no scenario where we can stop the bleeding in Iraq without American air power."


    The German Foreign Ministry has urged German citizens to leave parts of Iraq, including Baghdad.

    Save The Children UK, Intl children's charity

    tweets: Hundreds of thousands flee violence in #Mosul #Iraq - but Kurdistan, where many are headed, is already overstretched


    Some disquiet among Democrats at the prospect of another chapter for US involvement in Iraq. "War begets war. It's just not a good idea," said Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader.


    As he emerged from a closed-door briefing on Iraq, Republican Senator John McCain called for the president to replace his national security team, which has been a "total failure".


    Mr McCain says he wants the advice of the generals - "who won the war in Iraq before the president of the United States lost it" - on whether airstrikes are appropriate


    State department spokeswoman Jen Psaki announces at the afternoon briefing the US will provide an additional $12.8m (£7.6m) to international organisations working with refugees and internally displaced people.

    Mr Abbott and Mr Obama

    You can watch President Barack Obama's comments on Iraq, which he made during an Oval Office meeting with Australian PM Tony Abbott,


    White House spokesman Jay Carney has told reporters that sending ground troops to Iraq is not one of the options being considered.


    To sum up before we close, the US says it is considering military action, but not ground troops, to assist Iraq after two cities fell to Sunni Islamist insurgents.


    That brings to an end our live coverage of events in Iraq and in Washington on a dramatic day. Thank you for joining us.


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