Today militants took over the city of Tikrit and broke out hundreds of prisoners there as they seek to overturn Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The al-Qaeda seized Tikrit only hours after rebels took the city of Mosul as well. Mosul is now being held by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), according to The Wall Street Journal. It’s estimated that some 500,000 people have left Mosul to seek sanctuary outside the city amid concerns about increasing violence.

iraq al-qaeda

Al-Qaeda militants hold Iraq refinery

According to Reuters, Sunni rebels from an al-Qaeda splinter group targeted Iraq’s largest oil refinery in Tikrit. The Iraq army has been trying to build its ranks back up after hundreds of police and soldiers deserted ahead of the invasion of Mosul. Officials agreed not to prosecute those who returned to their posts today.

The ISIS also raided the Turkish embassy in Mosul and is holding 49 people hostage, including the consul-general. The conditions of the hostages are still unclear at this point. Some reports also indicate that 80 Turks have been kidnapped in Iraq. Turkey called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations to discuss the kidnappings and the increasing violence in Iraq.

West voices concern, U.K. to stay out

Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime has expressed support for Iraq’s government and as pledged to come to the nation’s aid to fight against the Sunni militants if necessary. Syria’s foreign ministry said the same terrorism that is targeting Syria is also targeting Iraq. However, as The Telegraph reports, it’s unclear whether Syria can spare any of its troops, as it is dealing with warfare on its own turf.

Meanwhile Washington isn’t paying much heed to the crisis in Iraq, although a few lawmakers are calling attention to it. Some criticize President Obama’s decision to withdraw in 2010, saying it was too early. Others say the U.S. is prepared to offer assistance to Iraq. In the U.K., lawmakers have expressed concerns but also said that they will not be sending in British troops at this stage.