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article imageIraqi militants overrun Tikrit after seizing Mosul

By Nathan Salant     Jun 11, 2014 in World
Tikrit - Anti-government militants seized most of the northern city of Tikrit, birthplace of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, on Wednesday, one day after taking over Mosul, Iraq's second largest city.
Heavy fighting was reported in Tikrit, where militants believed to be associated with the al-Qaida-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant took over police stations and a military base.
Witnesses in the city and police from nearby Samarra told Cable News Network that the militants had captured control of nearly all of Tikrit and that the governor of Salaheddin province was missing.
Militants took over Mosul in rapid fashion as fighters converged on the city Monday and Tuesday, CNN said, and have now seized portions of Baiji, home of the country's largest oil refinery.
Militants also took 48 hostages, including diplomats, in a raid on Turkey's embassy in Mosul, CNN said.
More than 500,000 people have fled Mosul since the seige began, according to the International Organization for Migration, which has been monitoring the exodus, CNN said.
IOM said the fighting between insurgents and government forces had causes "a high number of casualties among civilians" in the city of 1.6 million, CNN said.
The group also said Mosul's four main hospitals had been rendered inaccessible by fighting, and that some mosques were being used as medical clinics.
Many civilians fleeing the fighting were trying to get to safety in Erbil, CNN said.
Large numbers of Iraqi government forces were reported to have fled the fighting, allowing insurgents to overrun police stations, free prisoners from jails and seize Mosul's international airport.
ISIS called the fighting in Iraq's Nineveh province a "series of blessed battles" and said it would "open up the province completely and cleanse it of apostates," CNN said.
But Iraqi government leaders in Baghdad threatened to have military commanders court-martialed for allowing forces to abandon their posts.
The heavily armed radicals overran police stations, freed more than 1,000 prisoners from the city jail and captured the international airport, CNN said.
ISIS issued a statement promising to continue its "series of blessed battles" in Nineveh province, which it said was designed to "open up the province completely and cleanse it of apostates."
But Iraq's defense ministry promised to retake the captured cities.
"This is not the end, we are very confident that we will be able to correct the path and to overcome mistakes," the ministry said in a statement on its website, CNN said.
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