Nervousness took root in Iraq's capital Friday as a brutal Islamist group reportedly neared the city.
The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) overran Mosul in the Sunni-dominated north earlier this week and have since pressed toward Shiite-majority areas in the south, vowing to take Baghdad.
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With several other towns reportedly falling on the way, people in Baghdad were becoming increasingly anxious that their city would succumb just as easily, Al Jazeera English correspondent Imran Khan told NBC News on Friday.
"There’s a heightened security presence in the city and checkpoints have been increased," he said. "ISIS have threatened to march on Baghdad, and even if this is just a rumor it shows their reach in terms of fear is large."
He added: "It’s got everyone here very nervous. Mosul fell so quickly that people here are beginning to ask themselves, ‘How quickly can they come into Baghdad?'"
ALI ABBAS / EPA
Military trucks transport volunteers to Muthanna base in Baghdad, Iraq, on Friday.
ISIS is a Sunni group once affiliated with al Qaeda until the terror group disavowed it for being too brutal.
Hundreds of Western contractors were being evacuated from Balad, 50 miles north of Baghdad, but Khan said Baghdad residents were pinning their hopes on security forces being able to protect them.
"The only hope that people have got is that the security forces are the ones who will be able to protect them," he said. "Some 1,300 ISIS fighters took over a city of two million people [Mosul] and that has an effect on them."
Among the contractors being evacuated from the country were personnel posted to train Iraqis how to fly and maintain F-16 fighter jets.
ISIS was rumored to have flown one of several helicopters captured from Mosul airport over the city but there was no official confirmation.
Reuters contributed to this report.
First published June 13 2014, 3:56 AM