Jihadists seized several areas in Iraq’s Kirkuk province on Tuesday, a police officer said, after the militants took control of a whole province to its west.
The militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) overran the Hawijah, Zab, Riyadh and Abbasi areas west of the city of Kirkuk, and Rashad and Yankaja to its south, Colonel Ahmed Taha said.
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.
The Kirkuk takeovers came after jihadists from the same group seized control of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, and the surrounding province of Nineveh on Tuesday.
Nineveh, long a militant stronghold and one of the most dangerous areas in Iraq, shares a border with part of western Kirkuk province, which is located north of Baghdad.
Bloodshed is running at its highest levels since 2006-2007, when tens of thousands were killed in clashes between Iraq’s Shiite majority and Sunni Arab minority.
The level of violence in Iraq surged last year after an April 23 security forces operation at an anti-government protest camp near Hawijah that sparked clashes in which dozens died, and has continued unabated since.