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/ Source: Reuters

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.

Iraqi families fleeing violence in the northern Nineveh province are given water as they gather at a Kurdish checkpoint in Aski Kalak.SAFIN HAMED / AFP - Getty Images

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.

— Reuters