Iraq’s Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani voiced his support for the Iraqi army in its war against the al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Sistani released a statement on Tuesday, condemning the capture of Nineveh province by the takfiri militants.
The senior Shia cleric called for unity among all of the country’s political factions against the militants.
Powerful Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr also called for the formation of defense units to fight against radical militants and protect the country’s religious sites.
Sadr said in a written statement on Wednesday that he was ready "to form peace units to defend the holy places" of both Muslims and Christians, in cooperation with the government.
After taking the provincial capital of Mosul and parts of Kirkuk, the al-Qaeda-linked militants captured two areas of Iraq's Salaheddin province.
Siniyah and Sulaiman Bek, located north of the capital Baghdad, fell into the hands of the militants, said an army brigadier general and a local official.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki called on the parliament to declare a state of emergency.
Parts of Kirkuk back under control of army
Iraqi forces took back control of a major region near the northern Iraqi province of Kirkuk from terrorists.
On Wednesday, Iraqi forces, aided by tribal residents, regained the control of al-Multaqa from the ISIL militants, Al-Alam reported.
Meanwhile, reports also say that Iraqi security sources pushed back the militants trying to capture the town of Baiji, which is the site of a major oil refinery in Iraq’s Salaheddin Province.
The ISIL militants advanced into the oil refinery town of Baiji, setting the court house and police station on fire, security sources said on Wednesday.
They said around 250 guards at the refinery had agreed to withdraw to another town after the militants sent a delegation of local tribal chiefs to persuade them to pull out.
Baiji resident Jasim al-Qaisi, said the militants also warned local police and soldiers not to challenge them.
Half a million flee Mosul
The International Organization for Migration said Wednesday that around half a million Iraqis had fled their homes in Mosul following the city's fall, fearing increased violence.
The Geneva-based organization said its sources on the ground estimated the violence leading up to ISIL's total takeover "displaced over 500,000 people in and around the city".
UN chief Ban Ki-moon's spokesman said he was "gravely concerned by the serious deteriorating of the security situation in Mosul".
ISIL is led by the shadowy Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and backed by thousands of Islamist fighters in Syria and Iraq, many of them Westerners, and it appears to be surpassing Al-Qaeda as the world's most dangerous extremist group.
Terrorists execute 15 security forces
Terrorists executed 15 Iraqi security personnel on Wednesday in areas of Kirkuk province that the militants seized a day before, a senior police officer and local officials said.
Six were killed in the Riyadh area, four in Rashad and five more at a checkpoint in Talqiyah, the sources said, according to AFP.
Terrorists were in firm control Wednesday of Iraq's second city Mosul after seizing it and a swathe of other territory, patrolling its streets and calling for government employees to return to work, AFP reported.
Gunmen, some dressed in military uniforms, guarded government buildings and banks in Mosul Wednesday, said witnesses reached by telephone from Bashiqa, a town to the east.
They called over loudspeakers for government employees to go back to work.
Terrorists Tuesday seized all of Mosul and Ninevah province, long a militant stronghold and one of the most dangerous areas in the country, and also took areas in Kirkuk province, to its east, and Salaheddin to the south.
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