Authorities in Iraq say that Islamist militants have now seized the Turkish consulate in the northern city of Mosul. The city has seen a mass exodus of people following its takeover.
Turkish government sources and police have told news agencies that insurgents seized the consulate and kidnapped diplomatic staff. Efforts are underway to ensure their safety.
"ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) members managed to kidnap the Turkish consul and 24 of his guards and assistants," a police colonel told Reuters news agency.
Turkish media are reporting that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has gathered officials for an emergency meeting to discuss the situation.
It comes a day after members of ISIS, a thriving breakaway Islamist militant group, took control of Mosul, Iraq's second biggest city, in a show of strength against Iraq's Shiite-led government. Half a million people are reported to have fled Mosul.
The group's assault saw black banner-waving insurgents raid government buildings, push out security forces and capture military vehicles. They also abducted more than two dozen Turkish truck drivers who were delivering diesel to a power plant in Mosul.
The militants have also pushed on to the northern oil refinery town of Biji, with officials reporting the setting alight of its court building and police station overnight.
It's believed insurgents had warned police and soldiers ahead of time not to challenge them as they approached Biji.
'Plan to restore security'
Authorities back in Mosul are determined to recapture the city.
"Mosul is capable of getting back on its feet and getting rid of all the outsiders ... and we have a plan to restore security," said Atheel al-Nujaifi, the governor of Ninevah province, of which Mosul is the capital.
"We have taken practical steps in order to restore order ... by mobilizing people into public committees that would retake the city."
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said the government in Baghdad would work with the semi-autonomous regional government of Kurdistan to defeat the Islamists. The Iraqi parliament was set to meet on Thursday to discuss a state of emergency that might give Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki greater powers in tackling the growing insurgency.
ISIS has controlled the city of Fallujah for the past five months and on Tuesday claimed control of Iraq's second largest city, Mosul. It has also taken advantage of the civil war in neighboring Syria to gain a foothold there, where it is seen by some as the most capable of those forces fighting President Bashar al-Assad.
The group is believed to be fighting to establish an Islamist emirate that would straddle Syria and Iraq.
jr/dr (Reuters, AFP)