The Iraqi army is not in a position to retake the northern city of Mosul from Sunni militants, the Prime Minister of the country’s autonomous Kurdish region told the BBC on Tuesday.
Any solution must be a political one that addresses the grievances of the country’s Sunni minority, Nechirvan Barzani told the broadcaster.
Mr. Barzani added that his region’s Peshmerga military, which has stepped in to defend disputed partly Kurdish areas, would not be involved in any attempt to recapture Mosul.
Iraq’s second largest city fell to the militant Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) a week ago, and the group has since captured a string of towns stretching south towards Baghdad.
“Now there is no trust between al-Maliki and [the Sunnis], even between al-Maliki and the Kurds,” Mr. Barzani told the BBC’s Jim Muir.
“This is not only [ISIL], it is a result of the wrong policy in Baghdad vis-a-vis the Sunni area. It is about all the Sunni community — they feel neglected,” he said.
Mr. Barzani’s comments came as the governor of a majority Shiite southern province said his region has sent 5,000 volunteers to stem ISIL’s advance in the north of the country.
The volunteers have headed to Balad and Samara — the most northerly major city still held by Iraqi forces — and to the outskirts of Mosul, Dhi Qar governor Yahya Baqer al-Nasiri told local news service Al-Mada Press.
Al-Maliki urged citizens to volunteer for the fight against ISIL after the fall of Mosul, a call which was later repeated by a spokesman for the country’s main Shiite religious authority, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.
Meanwhile, fighting continued in areas north of Baghdad with officials saying security forces had fought off attacks by jihadist militants in several areas.
In Diyala province, security forces said they repelled two ISIL attacks north-east of the capital, killing 19 militants, local news site Alsumaria News reported.
Also in Diyala, 44 prisoners, mostly members of ISIL, were killed during a failed attempt by militants to free them from a jail, the site reported quoting an unnamed security official.
The renewed clashes came as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon added his voice to warnings of potential sectarian mayhem throughout the region.
“There is a real risk of further sectarian violence on a massive scale, within Iraq and beyond its borders,” Mr. Ban said, calling on political, military and religious leaders in Iraq to prevent their followers from committing acts of reprisal.
The Pentagon meanwhile said an extra 270 US soldiers had been sent to Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq to help secure the US embassy.
On Monday US Secretary of State John Kerry said that his country would be open to cooperating with Iran — al-Maliki’s key regional ally — to “minimize the violence.” But Mr. Kerry also stressed the need for an inclusive Iraqi government, in a reference to widespread criticism of al-Maliki’s policies which have been seen as alienating Iraq’s Sunni minority.
Sunni fighters, including groups linked to the Baath Party of former ruler Saddam Hussein, have joined the attacks on security forces in northern regions.
Fugitive former Sunni vice president Tarek al-Hashimi has described the unrest as a “popular revolution that all elements of the Iraqi people share in.” ISIL’s territorial gains began in January when it joined other Sunni fighters in driving security forces out of cities in western al-Anbar province.
That occurred amid local fury after al-Maliki’s forces broke up sit-ins where Sunni protesters had been demanding an end to what they saw as discriminatory laws.
A Turkish court meanwhile placed a gag order on media outlets, banning the publication of information relating to efforts to free some 80 Turks being held by ISIL in Mosul.
The move was taken “to ensure the safety” of the Turks, including some 30 truck drivers and nearly 50 staff from Ankara’s diplomatic mission to Mosul, including the consul-general.