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September 26, 2017

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Iraqi city of Tikrit falls to militants: police

BASHIQA/TIKRIT, Iraq--Militants took control of the Iraqi city of Tikrit and freed hundreds of prisoners on Wednesday, police said, the second provincial capital to fall in two days.

"All of Tikrit is in the hands of the militants," a police colonel said of the Salaheddin provincial capital, which lies roughly half way between Baghdad and Iraq's second city Mosul which fell on Tuesday.

A police brigadier general said that the militants attacked from the north, west and south of the city, and that they were from powerful jihadist group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

A police major said the militants had freed some 300 inmates from a prison in the city.

As many as half a million Iraqis fled their homes as jihadists tightened their grip beyond second city Mosul on Wednesday, and vowed an even broader offensive.

In a spectacular blow to the Shiite-led government, the militants of the ISIL and their allies on Tuesday seized Mosul and surrounding Nineveh province as well as a string of other northern towns.

And on Wednesday ISIL declared on Twitter that it was in "complete control" of all routes in and out of Nineveh, and promised it would "not stop this series of blessed invasions."

Members of the jihadist group also seized the Turkish consulate in Mosul and kidnapped the head of the diplomatic mission along with 24 staff, police said.

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