ISIS seizes more towns in northern and central Iraq
After seizing control of the northern city of Mosul in the past 24 hours, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham has advanced southward and taken control of territory in the provinces of Salahaddin and Kirkuk.
In Kirkuk province, ISIS fighters "overran the Hawijah, Zab, Riyadh and Abbasi areas west of the city of Kirkuk, and Rashad and Yankaja to its south," Colonel Ahmed Taha told AFP.
"Taha said soldiers and police in Zab abandoned their posts, while Hawijah district council chief Hussein al Juburi said soldiers in the area were apparently ordered to depart, allowing militants to move in and raise their flag over the police station," AFP continued.
Usamah al Nujayfi, the speaker of Iraq's Council of Representatives, reported earlier today that ISIS fighters took control of the airport in Sharqat, a city halfway between Kirkuk and Mosul, seized a helicopter, and freed prisoners.
Nujayfi, whose brother is the governor of Ninewa province, said that "all of Nineveh province fell into the hands of militants."
Several prisons, including Badush in Ninewa, which had housed top-level jihadist leaders and operatives, many of whom had been captured by US and Iraqi forces over the years, were emptied as the ISIS advanced. More than 2,500 prisoners are said to have been freed in Ninewa province alone.
Iraqi forces abandoned their posts in Mosul after an ISIS assault and left behind their weapons, ammunition, and equipment, including armored vehicles. A video released by an ISIS fighter driving through the city shows scores of ISIS fighters moving around in convoys and dozens more on the streets as abandoned or destroyed Iraqi police and military equipment litters the streets. [See LWJ report, Video from ISIS fighter shows aftermath of 'liberation' of Mosul.]
The recent ISIS advances in northern and central Iraq effectively put the terror group in control of nearly a third of the country. The ISIS already controls most of the large western province of Anbar, save the provincial capital of Ramadi and some small pockets.