The crisis in Iraq continues to worsen. The militant group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (also referred to as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) has taken the city of Mosul, in the Sunni-dominated northern area of the country, and are headed south. But the Iraqi Kurds, based in their own semi-autonomous region in the northeast of the country, have taken the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, Reuters reports.


There is increasing fear of civil war in the country as the conflict escalates. Worse, there are fears the conflict could move beyond Iraq’s borders, with the extremist ISIL launching attacks against both Syria and Turkey.

Even the state’s highest Shi’ite religious leader got involved today. Here’s more from Reuters:

In a rare intervention at Friday prayers in the holy city of Kerbala, a message from Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who is the highest religious authority for the Shi’ites in Iraq, said people should unite to fight back against advancing militants from the radical Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Fighters under the black flag of ISIL captured two more Iraqi towns overnight in a lightning sweep south towards the capital Baghdad in a campaign to recreate a medieval caliphate carved out of fragmenting Iraq and Syria.

For more detailed updates on the conflict, see Reuters’ story here. For a more general explainer of what has happened so far, see here.