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Sunni Islamist insurgents seized control of Iraq's second largest city of Mosul early on Tuesday in a spectacular show of strength against the Shi'ite-led government.
Thousands of families fled north towards the autonomous Kurdistan region, which shares a border with Nineveh province, of which Mosul is the capital. Many were stuck in their vehicles as they waited at Kurdish checkpoints.
The fall of Mosul deals a serious blow to Baghdad's efforts to fight Sunni militants who have regained ground and momentum in Iraq over the past year, pushing into Mosul last week and overrunning a military base and freeing hundreds of prisoners.