BAGHDAD — A rebel juggernaut that captured Iraq’s second-largest city and raced nearly 200 miles south in three days, raising fears of an imminent assault on Baghdad, stalled for a second day Saturday about 60 miles north of the capital, leaving residents bracing for a siege that so far has not happened.
While some Baghdad residents scrambled to leave, hoarded food, or rushed to join auxiliary militias to defend the city, the militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and their allies halted their advance within a two-hour drive to the north, and there was no indication that they were seeking to push into Baghdad proper.
The rebel leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who had boasted that he would soon take the capital and press on to the Shi’ite heartland in southern Iraq, fell silent as his followers worked to consolidate their gains in predominantly Sunni parts of the country, instead of trying to fight their way through more heavily defended, Shi’ite-dominated areas.
There were reports of fresh clashes in Dujail, Ishaqi, and Dhuliuya in Salahuddin province, just north of Baghdad, as newly armed Shi’ite militias surged to confront the largely Sunni insurgents.
However, there did not appear to be any decisive engagements between the insurgents and the Iraqi military, and there was no clear evidence to support a claim by an Iraqi general on Saturday that the Iraqi army had rolled the militants back in on those towns.
You have reached the limit of 5 free articles in a month
Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.
- High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
- Convenient access across all of your devices
- Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
- Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
- Less than 25¢ a week