The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), now in the second week of its lightning offensive that put large portions of Iraq under its control, continues to tighten its noose on the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.
A Kurdish official on Tuesday stated that two towns on a crucial supply route linking Baghdad with the Shi'ite majority south of the country have been captured by Sunni rebels including ISIS, reports the news site Breitbart, referencing unconfirmed reports.
The official, Jabbar Yawar, said that by capturing the towns of Iskandariyah and Mahmudiyah, ISIS is as close as six miles from Baghdad. By capturing the supply route, it was predicted that the ability of Shi'ite reinforcements to the capital could be cut off and leave Baghdad isolated.
Meanwhile Iraqi security sources on Friday told Al Arabiya that ISIS had captured the town of Al-Mansuriya near Baghdad in the Diyala province, to the immediate east of the capital.
The town is only an hour's distance from Baghdad.
Reports by the Stratford Global Intelligence agency state that ISIS is currently staging an attack on Balad Air Base (formerly Camp Anaconda) located 35 miles north of Baghdad, and has already overrun part of the facility.
The report cites anonymous Iraqi defense officials saying that seven divisions, a full half of the Iraqi army ahead of the June 10 ISIS conquest of Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, have been defeated or deserted.
Shi'ites have brutal militias too
As the Sunni ISIS Islamists approach Baghdad sectarian violence has been skyrocketing in the capital, with numerous reports of assassinations and atrocities being committed by local Shi'ite militias against Sunni residents.
One Sunni resident of Baghdad, Muthan al-Ani, told the New York Times that Shi'ite militias are patrolling the city in unmarked vehicles and capturing citizens without any reason or any explanation as to where they were being taken. He added that Iraqi soldiers are hesitant to confront the militias "because they are more powerful than us."
The United Nations (UN) reported that last week at least 21 unidentified bodies, most of them shot in the head, were found in Baghdad, while police officials said they found 23 bodies. Many more simply disappeared.
The killings are chillingly reminiscent of the worst days of sectarian violence in Iraq after the 2003 Coalition invasion, when Shi'ite death squads engaged in the systematic "cleansing" of neighborhoods, kidnapping and murdering hundreds of Sunni residents on a weekly basis.
“We certainly acknowledge there are unidentified bodies being found in Baghdad, and some evidence is emerging that people have been tortured,” said Jacqueline Badcock, deputy representative of the UN secretary general for Humanitarian and Development Affairs in Iraq.
A regional issue
The fighting in Iraq, which threatens to spill over into neighboring countries, has already killed 1,075 in Iraq in June, according to the UN.
The UN added the number is an "absolute minimum."
US Secretary of State John Kerry told BBC on Tuesday that "every country in the region will combine in order to take on and expel ISIS because it is simply unacceptable to have a terrorist organization grabbing territory and challenging the legitimacy of governments."
Kerry emphasized his push for a "political solution."
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman met with on Thursday in Paris, and stated Israel is offering to aid "moderate" Arab states to push back against the jihadis.