MOSUL, Iraq, June 10 (UPI) -- Sunni militants seized control of the Iraqi oil center of Mosul Tuesday, commandeering the city's military bases, police stations and government headquarters.
The loss of Iraq's second-largest city to what witnesses said were jihadist fighters of the extremist group Islamic State of Iran and Iraq can be considered a major blow to government fighters, who abandoned their weapons and escaped the fighting.
The takeover of Mosul concluded a six-day battle across central and western Iraq between the well-organized militants and an army more concentrated on attempting to capture the western cities of Ramadi and Falluja.
No casualty reports from either side were released, but refugees fleeing the fighting in Mosul reported seeing bodies of soldiers, police officers and civilians in the street.
The militants seem to be able to strike at will across Iraq in well-coordinated attacks on police stations, government office buildings and a university in Mosul, Falluja and Ramadi. Car bombs killed dozens in Baghdad Saturday.
The Iraqi army response thus far has been the bombing of a Mosul military base it formerly controlled, with no sign of an organized strategy to regain the city.
Government officials say the militants' offensive is a spillover from the war in neighboring Syria, with Osama al-Nujaifi, speaker of the Iraqi Parliament, referring to it as a "foreign invasion of Iraq, carried out by terrorist groups from different countries."
Prime Minister Nuri Kamal el-Maliki, in a televised address, called for a state of emergency to be declared throughout the country. He said, in part, of the army's failure to defend Mosul, "The prison was left to the hands of criminals, and opened. What happened was a disaster, based on all measures."