Iraqi soldiers gather as their unit is shipped north from the central Shiite Muslim shrine city of Najaf to Mosul following the increased violence, on June 8, 2014. AFP PHOTO/HAIDAR HAMDANI
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An al-Qaeda splinter group in Iraq seized control of the big northern city of Mosul on Tuesday, putting security forces to flight in a spectacular show of strength against the Shi'ite-led Baghdad government.The capture of the city of some two million by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Sunni Muslims waging sectarian war on both sides of the nearby Iraqi-Syrian border, adds to its grip on key western cities and followed four days of heavy fighting in Mosul and surrounding Nineveh province. The fall of Mosul, a largely Sunni Arab city after years of ethnic and sectarian fighting, deals a serious blow to Baghdad's efforts to fight Sunni militants who have regained ground and momentum in Iraq over the past year, taking Falluja and parts of Ramadi, in the desert west of Baghdad at the start of the year.Thousands of families were fleeing north from Mosul, one of the great historic cities of the Middle East, towards the nearby Kurdistan region, where Iraq's ethnic Kurds enjoy autonomy.Hours later, Nujaifi himself narrowly escaped the provincial headquarters in the city after militants besieged it.
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