ISIS seizes more towns in northern and central Iraq

Iraqi and Syrian towns and cities seized by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham. Map created by The Long War Journal. Click to view larger map.

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.

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  • m3fd2002 says:

    It looks like the 2nd Army Division was routed and its remnants fled to Kurdish controlled areas to the East. What ever equipment they did manage to transport, most probably will be absorbed by the Peshmerges. The Kurds will not let the remnants of the 2nd army division to remain armed. ISIS knows if it moves eastward it will be met with stiff resistance from the Kurds. To this point Barzani and Talabani have not openly supported the YPF in Syria. If ISIS crosses the “red line”, The Iraqi Kurds will begin to overtly supporting YPF units. It’s very fluid in the Euphrates Valley at this time.

  • sundoesntrise says:

    Bill, I would assume that your map only shows complete control by ISIS. That would make sense. As for presence, there are many areas on your map that you didn’t mark that they have a small-medium presence in.
    I think this situation in Iraq is only going to get worse, ISIS is powerful, determined and relentless. Unless something changes, soon, I could see intense street battles in the heart of Baghdad in a few months time.
    Another thing I notice that you, and other commentators rarely ever address is the rivalries ISIS has inside Iraq with other groups. They oppose the JRTN, Ansar Al Islam, Jaysh al Mujahideen and other groups just to name a few. I wonder if those feuds will continue, or if ISIS will become so powerful they just swallow up those groups.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Yes, this plots overt control, and from what I’ve seen in press reports. There are other areas I know must be under ISIS control or strong influence, but we wanted to stick with the clear cases. For instance, if Haditha is under ISIS control, you can be sure Haqlaniyah and Barwana are as well. Having spent some time in all three places and knowing the terrain, it has to be that way.

  • Alex says:

    m3fd2002, do you have some info or links you could provide on the YPF? All these factions are hard to keep straight sometimes and I’m not familiar with that one.

  • Alex says:

    One thing I wanted to add: there seems to be a disconnect between the Sunni provinces, which have seriously deteriorated, and the Shia and Kurdish provinces.
    Here’s what I mean. This was an article in a Middle Eastern business publication just four days ago talking about how the Iraqi Stock Market was growing rapidly:–552960.html?page=0
    It seems like there’s really two countries, one which is in full crisis mode, and another which is quirky but somehow still trudges along, kind of like Nigeria now or Indonesia back when they had their Abu Sayyaf problems.

  • Joseph says:

    Can Iraq wind up looking like Syria? Or will the government not even be able to take a stand like Assad’s regime has? Will the US, Russia and Iran allow Baghdad to fall? If they choose not to let it, how is ISIS to be resisted that doesn’t fall in line with creating more chaos? Or stepping into Syria itself?
    With each passing day it seems that in order to stop war, we will have to create more of it and at a far higher cost.

  • blert says:

    Maliki has thrown Sunni Iraqis into the arms of AQ and ISIL.
    All of this was foreseen here at the LWJ many, many months ago.
    While he can make noises, he has lost the Sunnis.
    The troops bailing out are Shi’ites, for the most part.
    I can’t imagine Maliki having the military power to reverse this loss.
    It also signals the end of the Iraq-Syrian border.
    Iraq is soon to be rendered a rump nation. This can’t make Turkey too happy: the Kurds (up north) will be cut off from Baghdad in very short order.
    Ankara is going to have to accept Sunni oil. (being shipped out of its pipeline in the Med)
    IIRC, the Europeans have already given themselves permission to purchase this crude oil.
    BTW, there are no end of oil deposits in western Iraq and eastern Syria. They just haven’t been exploited because they were too close to the harsh border. The CIA worked up a map of them. (It’s in the back files of the LWJ.)
    AQ has its first stomping ground, pretty much by itself.
    The ‘split’ with ISIL is strictly over money. In every other matter they run with the same script.
    Say… Is this war over?

  • Knighthawk says:

    Just in: Iraq confirms Islamic Militants looted $429 million from Mosul banks, making them richer than some small countries – @WilliamsJon
    — ABC News (@ABC) June 11, 2014
    Just lovely if true.

  • Bill Baar says:

    So when does Iran step in to stop ISIS?

  • Henri says:

    I don’t think ISIS has the will or capability to expand further into Kirkuk or KRG control areas..The Pershmerga are a powerfull force and more capable than ISIS. What are they trying to achieve by expanding into Kirkuk?

  • Arjuna says:

    Excellent article and map, gentlemen. Thanks. Great commentary as well, good questions, no easy answers.
    This piece by Brett Shehadey certainly aided my understanding of ISIL’s strategy. Especially good are the last four paragraphs dealing with possible US responses.
    Not to worry, they robbed a bank. No biggie.
    They stole $480,000,000 [!!!]. And acquired an air force and armor and freed over 1,000 fighters in under three days. Such is the power of fanaticism with a bit of organization and room to maneuever.

  • sundoesntrise says:

    ISIS has already taken more towns as we speak, they have a presence in Kirkuk that is being built up. The main jihadist group operating in Kirkuk is Ansar Al Islam, they have been taking over checkpoints and barracks in the area for about 6 months now. ISIS will have to compete with Ansar Al Islam and the Kurdish forces if they want to expand to Kirkuk. It won’t be easy but as you can see, ISIS has more money, weapons and morale than ever before so we’ll see.

  • Knighthawk says:

    sundoesntrise – News reports (telegraph uk) are suggesting that Kurdish forces have taken back Kirkuk and are otherwise massing in the area for further push back in the area.


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