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Continued: Iraq's clerical leadership urges national defense as militants seize more territory

  • Article by: SAMEER N. YACOUB , Associated Press
  • Last update: June 13, 2014 - 3:25 PM

The video appeared authentic and consistent with AP reporting of the events depicted.

The U.N. refugee agency reported that local authorities say 300,000 people fleeing from Mosul have sought safety in the Erbil and Duhok governorates in the Kurdistan region. UNHCR monitoring teams report many arrived with little more than what they were wearing, although some are staying with relatives and in hotels, the agency said.

Kurdish security forces filled the power vacuum caused by the retreating Iraqi forces, taking control of the ethnically mixed oil hub of Kirkuk in northern Iraq.

The advances by the Sunni militants are a heavy defeat for al-Maliki. His Shiite-dominated political bloc came first in April parliamentary elections — the first since the U.S. military withdrawal — but failed to get a majority, forcing him to try to build a governing coalition.

The U.N. envoy in Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, urged the Federal Court to certify the election results before the current parliament's mandate expires Saturday.

"There is a need to guarantee the continuity of the parliament, representing all Iraqis, is in place and will continue to address urgent decisions of national importance," Mladenov said.

Iraq's government began blocking access to websites like Facebook and Twitter, according to Renesys, a New Hampshire-based Internet analysis firm. The outages, reported Thursday and Friday, appeared to coincide with government efforts to disrupt the militants' offensive and mirrored other past efforts by Middle East countries to block Internet access.

Internet access routed through Kurdistan into neighboring Turkey appeared to continue functioning, said Jim Cowie, the head of research and development at Renesys. Iraq also accesses the Internet through providers in Jordan and via submarine cables.

"There can always be battle damage but in this particular case it's government directed," Cowie told the AP.

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