Iraqi soldiers watch as armed tribesmen gather to show their willingness to join Iraqi security forces in the fight against jihadist militants who have taken over several northern Iraqi cities, June 16, 2014. AFP PHOTO
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Militants pushed a weeklong offensive that has overrun swathes of Iraq to within 60 kilometers of Baghdad Tuesday, as the U.N. warned the country's very existence was under threat.Washington meanwhile deployed some 275 military personnel to protect its embassy in Baghdad, the first time it has sent troops to Iraq since it withdrew its forces at the end of 2011 after a bloody and costly intervention launched in 2003 . It was also mulling air strikes against the militants, who are led by the powerful Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) jihadist group, and, according to Baghdad, funded and supported by Saudi Arabia. The overnight attack on Baqouba, which was pushed back by security forces but left 44 prisoners dead at a police station, marked the closest that fighting has come to the capital as part of a lightning offensive in which jihadists have said they intend to march on Baghdad and the southern Shiite holy city of Karbala.The swift advance of the militants has sparked international alarm, with U.N. envoy to Baghdad Nickolay Mladenov warning that Iraq's sovereignty was at stake.
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