The battle for Iraq is getting uncomfortably close to its capital city. Islamic State of Iraq and Syria militants briefly took over parts of the city of Baquba, which is just 37 miles from Baghdad, the BBC reports. The Iraqi military and allied Shiite militias eventually drove them off—and killed 28 rebels in the process, an official tells the Wall Street Journal. During the battle 44 prisoners at a police station were also killed, though by whom is unclear. Nouri al-Maliki's office blamed militants, but other officials said security forces killed the prisoners as they tried to escape.
Baquba residents are frightened, sources say, and many are fleeing the city. Government fighters are combing the city for ISIS holdouts. There has also been fighting on two major highways leading into Baghdad.
- Meanwhile, inside Baghdad, four young men believed to be Sunnis were found dead in a predominantly Shiite neighborhood, the New York Times reports. Each had been shot numerous times, in murders reminiscent of death squad killings that were common in 2006 and 2007
- Government forces are also fighting to retake Tal Afar, which is west of Mosul. Those forces are massing at the airport in preparation for their next assault, as the government launches airstrikes on the city center. About 700 ISIS fighters are massed there.
- Iraq's government has openly accused Saudi Arabia of funding ISIS, the Telegraph reports. Riyadh is "siding with terrorism," Maliki's office said in a statement. "The Saudi government should be held responsible for the dangerous crimes committed by these terrorist groups."
- The US has made a reduction of sectarian tensions in Iraq a prerequisite for aide, but Maliki has done precious little work on that front, the Times reveals today. Instead, Maliki has occupied himself solely with military matters—so much so that his staff has begun wearing fatigues.
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