In a major defeat for Iraq's government and a victory for Islamic insurgents, al Qaeda overran Iraq's second largest city of Mosul Tuesday as overwhelmed security forces collapsed and deserted their posts.
"They abandoned their arms, ammunition and armored vehicles, and their positions, leaving them behind to terrorists. They even left Mosul airport and some planes," parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, a Sunni from Mosul, said in a televised address.
Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is now calling for a state of emergency and is asking the United States for help. Al-Nujaifi called the incident a disaster for the entire region.
***What are radical Islamists' ultimate goals for Iraq and the Middle East? CBN News Sr. International Correspondent Gary Lane talked about that and more CBN Newswatch, June 10.
"The presence of these terrorist groups in this vast province ... threatens not just the security and the unity of Iraq, but the whole Middle East," he warned.
Mosul is a strategic prize for these insurgents, who have been advancing in Syria as well as Iraq. Experts believe they hope to set up a military enclave straddling the border between the two countries.
The assault in Mosul also shows just how Iraq has changed since American forces left in 2011.
The depth of the blow can be seen in the latest move by al-Maliki to declare the state of emergency, hoping that the greater powers will allow him to run the country, for now.
"We have to declare a comprehensive mobilization and the utmost alert in political, financial, and popular capabilities to defeat terrorism and bring life to normal in all areas occupied by terrorists," he said.
On Sunday, car bombs exploded across the Iraqi capital, killing four and underscoring the sectarian violence that threatens the country's stability.
Regaining Mosul remains a daunting challenge. A Sunni Muslim majority live there, many of who are deeply embittered against al-Maliki, who is a Shiite, and his government.