As many as 500,000 people have been forced to flee the Iraqi city of Mosul after Islamist militants effectively took control of it, the International Organization for Migration says.

ISIL- The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is an off-shoot of al Qaeda and it now controls eastern Syria as well as west and central Iraq. Residents of Mosul – Iraq’s second city – said jihadist flags were flying from buildings and that the militants had announced over loudspeakers they had “come to liberate” the city.

Many police stations were reported to have been set on fire and hundreds of detainees set free.

“The army forces threw away their weapons, changed their clothes, abandoned their vehicles and left the city,” Mahmud Nuri, a resident fleeing Mosul, told the AFP news agency.

US State department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the situation in Mosul was “extremely serious” and that the US supported “a strong, co-ordinated response to push back against this aggression”. A spokesman for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was “gravely concerned” at the situation.The Iraqi government is struggling with a surge in sectarian violence that killed almost 800 people, including 603 civilians, in May alone, according to the UN. Last year, more than 8,860 people died.


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