Kurds in full control of oil city Kirkuk after Iraqi army flees

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Kurdish forces are in full control of Iraq’s oil-rich city of Kirkuk after the federal Iraqi army abandoned its bases there, a Kurdish military spokesman said on Thursday. Kirkuk is a city located at the heart of a long-running dispute between the federal government in Baghdad and the Kurds, who run their own autonomous region in the north of the country and have an armed militia called the “peshmerga”.

“The whole of Kirkuk has fallen into the hands of peshmerga,” said Jabbar Yawar, referring to the Kurdish forces. “No Iraqi army remains in Kirkuk now”.

The move came after Iraqi soldiers fled their posts in the city of Mosul and several other towns and cities in the face of an onslaught by radical Sunni insurgents from the Islamic State in Iraqand the Levant (ISIL).

ISIL said in a statement it was now advancing on Baghdad.

US mulls air strikes on Iraqi rebels as militants advance on Baghdad

Militants have seized the Iraqi city of Tikrit as a jihadist offensive sweeps closer to Baghdad, prompting the UN Security Council to convene crisis talks Thursday while the US mulls air strikes on the rebels. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) seized the second city of Mosul on Tuesday and has since captured a large swathe of northern and north-central Iraq including Tikrit – the hometown of executed dictator Saddam Hussein.

ISIL spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani promised the battle would “rage” on the capital Baghdad and Karbala, a city southwest of the capital that is considered one of the holiest sites for Shiite Muslims, the SITE Intelligence Group said.

The UN Security Council swiftly convened a meeting to discuss the crisis in a sign of growing international alarm at the fast-moving situation.

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