June 11, 2014
(CNN) — A day after taking over Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, militants gained nearly complete control of the northern city of Tikrit, witnesses in the city and police officials in neighboring Samarra told CNN.
Heavy fighting erupted inside Tikrit — the hometown of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein — as the military tried to regain control, the sources and a police official in Baghdad said.
According to the witnesses in Tikrit and the Samarra police officials, two police stations in Tikrit were on fire and a military base was taken over by militants, believed to be from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIS and ISIL.
Suspected ISIS militants raided the Turkish Consulate in Mosul on Wednesday, capturing 48 people, including diplomats, and they also seized parts of Baiji, the site of Iraq’s largest oil refinery, police officials in Tikrit told CNN.
The devastating ISIS advance is proving an object lesson of much that is wrong in Iraq and the region — with a festering civil war over the border in Syria adding fuel to the growing sectarian tensions at home.
ISIS is exploiting this to expand its influence, from cities like Falluja and parts of Ramadi that it wrested from the government in Anbar early this year, and from Syrian towns like Raqqa it controls over the border.
That it is capable of fighting the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on one hand, its fellow radicals on another and the Iraqi government on top of that is an indication of the depth to which ISIS has established itself in the region.
The group was an offshoot al Qaeda in Iraq, responsible for the deaths of many U.S. troops in western Iraq. With American help, Iraqi tribal militias put ISIS on the defensive.