Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) already controls much of the Anbar Province, and seems to be expanding northward this weekend, as major fighting erupted in the oil-rich northern city of Mosul.
On Saturday, AQI fighters captured large numbers of police, executing them, and scores were killed in the city. 38 more died on Sunday as the clashes continued and Iraqi military forces aimed to retake neighborhoods from the Islamists.
The Iraqi military hasn’t had a great record in fighting AQI in Anbar, and provincial officials didn’t seem to hold out much hope here, either, pleading with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to send their paramilitary force, the Peshmerga, to fight for the city. Early reports have emerged of Peshmerga arriving in the city.
Ideally, many of the civilians would like to flee in this situation, though with AQI controlling most of the highways into town, getting out isn’t easy or safe. Exactly how much of the city AQI controls is unclear, but some reports put it as high as 50 percent.
Between their possessions in Syria and Anbar, AQI holds some pretty substantial cities, but nothing nearly the size of strategic importance of Mosul. The loss of the city would be a huge blow to Iraq, and would underscore AQI’s growing territory as a de facto nation of its own.