Militants seize Turkish consulate in Iraqi city of Mosul – reports
by The Daily Lede
- Extremist militants are closing in on Iraq’s biggest oil refinery
- offered safe passage to some 250 men guarding the refinery on the outskirts of Baiji on condition they leave
- Baiji refinery can process 300,000 barrels per day and supplies oil products to most of Iraq’s provinces and is a major provider of power to Baghdad
Radical Islamist insurgents have seized the Turkish consulate in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, occupied by an Al-Qaeda offshoot, Turkish government sources have told Reuters.
According to AFP citing local police, the Turkish consul and 24 other consulate employees have been taken hostage by the militants of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS or ISIL).
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was holding an emergency meeting on the situation, Hurriyet reports.
According to Turkish media, the captors are holding diplomats in militant headquarters.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry meanwhile said it was verifying the information as conflicting reports from local Kurdish media claimed the consulate was attacked by ISIS, but the staff was “evacuated and safe.”
The radical Sunni militants have already taken hostage at least 32 Turkish nationals – truck drivers – in the area since Tuesday, according to Hurriyet.
Hundreds of thousands of people are believed to have fled Mosul and the northern Iraqi province of Nineveh, which the jihadists have largely taken under control. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) placed the number of refugees at 500,000.
Those fleeing the region included demoralized Iraqi troops, who chaotically left their positions, dropping uniforms, weapons, munitions and military hardware.
On Monday night, fighters from Al-Qaeda splinter group ISIS stormed provincial government headquarters armed with rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns.
“The city of Mosul is outside the control of the state and at the mercy of the militants,” an Interior Ministry official told AFP on Monday. It is now the second city to fall under control of Islamist fighters since the beginning of this year. In January militants seized the city of Fallujah, displacing over 70,000 people.
Eyewitness accounts describe the scenes of chaos on the streets of Iraq’s second-largest city as thousands of people fled for their lives. A number of reports say that militants are freeing detainees from police stations, while AL RAI Chief International Correspondent Elijah J Magnier tweeted that the ISIS had freed over 2,000 inmates from a “counter terrorism prison.”