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Jihadists seize Iraq's second city, Nineveh province
by Staff Writers
Mosul, Iraq (AFP) June 10, 2014

Key dates in Iraq since 2003
Baghdad (AFP) June 10, 2014 - Key dates since US-led troops captured Baghdad in 2003, after jihadists on Tuesday seized the northern province of Nineveh and its capital Mosul, the country's second-largest city.

Unrest has been principally driven by Sunni Arab anger over alleged mistreatment by the Shiite-led government and security forces, as well as by the civil war in neighbouring Syria.


- April 9: American forces who entered Iraq on March 20 as part of a US-British operation take control of Baghdad, symbolically toppling a statue of dictator Saddam Hussein.

- May 1: US President George W. Bush announces the end of major combat operations.

- December 13: Saddam captured.


- June 28: A US-led administration transfers power to the Iraqi government.


- January 30: Iraqis vote in the first multi-party election in 50 years, a poll Sunni Arabs largely boycott.

- April 6: Kurd Jalal Talabani elected president by the transitional parliament. Re-elected in April 2006.

- October 15: A new constitution setting out a federal framework for the Shiite, Kurd and Sunni communities endorsed in a nationwide referendum.

- December 15: The conservative Shiite United Iraqi Alliance wins the most seats in parliamentary elections.


- February 22: A revered Shiite shrine in Samarra is blown up, marking the start of a bloody sectarian war that killed tens of thousands between 2006 and 2008.

- May 20: Nuri al-Maliki, a Shiite, forms the first post-war government.

- December 30: Saddam hanged.


- August 14: More than 400 killed in the northern province of Nineveh in attacks on a Kurdish religious minority.


- January 1: The US cedes control of Baghdad's high-security Green Zone.


- March 7: Inconclusive second parliamentary elections unleash protracted negotiations to form new government.


- December 18: US troops complete their withdrawal.

- December 19: Iraq issues an arrest warrant for Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi on anti-terror charges, sparking a political crisis.


- December 23: The start of major protests, particularly in the Sunni province of Anbar, demanding Maliki's ouster.


- April 23: Clashes in Hawijah in northern Iraq between security forces and anti-government protesters allegedly infiltrated by militants kill more than 240 people in a week.

- August 10: More than 70 killed in attacks at the end of Ramadan, claimed by the powerful jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

According to the NGO Iraq Body Count, 2013 was the deadliest year since 2008, with 9,475 civilians killed.


- January 2-4: Iraq loses control of Fallujah and parts of Ramadi in Anbar province to Al-Qaeda-linked fighters, after security forces cleared an anti-government protest camp.

The UN estimates nearly 500,000 Iraqis flee the fighting in subsequent months.

- April 30: Maliki wins the most seats in the first general election since US troops departed, but his State of Law alliance falls short of an overall majority.

- May 28: A post-election wave of nationwide attacks kills at least 74 people.

- June 10: ISIL seizes the entire northern province of Nineveh and its capital Mosul and head south towards neighbouring Salaheddin province. Maliki says the government will arm citizens to counter the threat.

Jihadists overran Iraq's second city of Mosul, the surrounding Nineveh province and parts of Kirkuk, in a major blow on Tuesday that Washington warned threatens the entire region.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki responded by asking parliament to declare a state of emergency and announcing the government would arm citizens to fight the militants.

"All of Nineveh province fell into the hands of militants," parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi told journalists in Baghdad, adding the gunmen were heading south towards neighbouring Salaheddin province.

An army brigadier general told AFP hundreds of militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) launched a major assault on the security forces late on Monday.

An interior ministry official said Mosul, the scene of deadly clashes on Friday and Saturday, was "outside the control of the state and at the mercy of the militants".

Soldiers and police had stripped off their uniforms and fled, and the militants used loudspeakers to declare they had "come to liberate" the city of some two million people.

- Exodus of civilians -

An AFP journalist, himself fleeing with his family, said shops were closed, a police station had been set ablaze and security forces vehicles had been burned or abandoned.

Hundreds of families were seen fleeing. Some were on foot, carrying what they could, others in vehicles with their belongings piled on the roofs.

In the Kurdish north, another AFP journalist said thousands of Mosul residents had fled for the safety of the autonomous region.

Dozens of cars and trucks stretched out from one checkpoint on the boundary of the region, as people with plastic bags, suitcases and a pram waited to enter, some with young children in tow.

"The army forces threw away their weapons and changed their clothes and left their vehicles and left the city," said Mahmud Nuri, a displaced Mosul resident.

"We didn't see anyone fire a shot".

The assailants seized the provincial government headquarters and the Nineveh Operations Command as well as the airport, the army general said.

They also freed hundreds of prisoners from three jails.

The Turkish consulate in Mosul said ISIL fighters had captured 28 Turkish truck drivers, while a foreign ministry official said Ankara hoped they would be released once they finished unloading fuel oil at a power station.

Maliki said the cabinet had decided to reorganise the security forces, arm citizens and to ask parliament to impose emergency rule.

It had "created a special crisis cell to follow up on the process of volunteering and equipping and arming", the premier said.

State television said parliament had received a joint request from Maliki and the president's office to declare a state of emergency.

- 'Threat to entire region' -

Predominantly Sunni Muslim Nineveh province has long been a militant stronghold and one of Iraq's most dangerous areas.

ISIL, the most powerful militant group in Iraq, is also a key force in the rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad in neighbouring Syria.

In April, it launched a campaign in Syria's Deir Ezzor province, which borders Nineveh, aimed at carving out an Islamic state.

The group said it was behind operations in Nineveh in messages on Twitter, though other militants may have been involved as well.

Mosul is the second city to fall from government control this year. Anti-government fighters also control Fallujah, west of Baghdad.

"ISIL is not only a threat to the stability of Iraq, but a threat to the entire region," US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, adding that Washington backed "a strong coordinated response".

And Ban Ki-moon's spokesman said the UN chief was "gravely concerned by the serious deteriorating of the security situation in Mosul."

ISIL militants also took six different areas of Kirkuk province, which shares a border with Nineveh, police Colonel Ahmed Taha said.

Taha said security forces abandoned their posts in one area, while an official said soldiers were ordered to withdraw from another, allowing militants to move in.

Violence also struck other areas of Iraq.

In Baquba, two bombs killed 20 people near a funeral procession for a slain teacher. And in Baghdad, 11 people died in attacks.

Gunmen have launched major operations in Nineveh, Salaheddin, Anbar, Diyala and Baghdad provinces since Thursday, killing scores and highlighting both their long reach and the weakness of security forces.

Violence is running at its highest levels since 2006-2007, when tens of thousands were killed in clashes between Iraq's Shiite majority and Sunni Arab minority.


Related Links
Iraq: The first technology war of the 21st century

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