Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu Reuters

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu warned on Wednesday that Ankara will retaliate if any of its citizens and diplomats held in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul are harmed.

"Right now we are engaged in calm crisis management, considering our citizens' security. This should not be misunderstood. Any harm to our citizens and staff would be met with the harshest retaliation," Davutoglu was quoted by Reuters as having told reporters in New York.

On Tuesday, Islamists from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) captured the city of Mosul, in Iraq’s northern Nineveh Province, prompting some 150,000 panic-stricken refugees to flee to the nearby autonomous Kurdish region.

The Islamists attacked the Turkish embassy in the city, taking at least 49 people hostage.

On Wednesday, ISIS also attacked the central Iraqi city of Tikrit, located in Salaheddin province, just 150 km (95 miles) north of Baghdad.

In a desperate attempt to fend off the threat posed by the group - who will now surely be eyeing further territorial gains - Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki called a state of emergency and has offered to arm local tribes and citizens opposed to ISIS.

The Al-Qaeda-linked ISIS also has a presence in Syria, where its jihadist rebels are fighting to oust President Bashar Al-Assad.

Since joining the civil war in Syria, ISIS has been accused of torturing and murdering prisoners, among them children and teenagers, and forcing Druze men to convert to Islam or die.