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UN: 1,000 Killed In ISIL Iraq Advance; Kerry In Kurdish Talks

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said U.S. support for Iraq "will be intense [and] sustained," but called for political unity.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said U.S. support for Iraq "will be intense [and] sustained," but called for political unity.

The United Nations says at least 1,075 people were killed in Iraq between June 5 and June 22 -- most of them civilians -- as Sunni-led militants seized swaths of territory in Anbar Province and to the north of Baghdad.

Rupert Colville, the spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said on June 24 that its tally of dead "should be viewed very much as a minimum."

Colville said the UN's estimated toll included victims of bombings as well as the alleged massacres of civilians, police, and military recruits.

The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), an Al-Qaeda splinter group, claimed that it executed more than 1,700 Shi'ite military recruits after capturing the city of Mosul earlier in June.

In Iraq's northern city of Irbil on June 24, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was meeting with the president of Iraq's Kurdish autonomous region, Masud Barzani, in a bid to encourage the formation of a new, more inclusive Iraqi government.

Kurds represent about 20 percent of Iraq's population and usually vote as a unified bloc.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shi'a has been widely criticized for fueling sectarian tensions in Iraq by failing to give an adequate stake of power to Sunni and Kurdish representatives.

IN FOCUS: What Drives Sunni Anger In Iraq?

Kerry said during his talks with Barzani and other Kurdish officials that "the government formation challenge is the central challenge" in Iraq.

He also praised security cooperation by Kurdish forces, saying it had been "really critical in helping to draw a line with respect to ISIL and also to provide some support to the Iraqi security forces."

Kerry, speaking at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad's Green Zone, said U.S. support for Iraq "will be intense [and] sustained," but called for political unity.

Militant Gains

Meanwhile,ISIL militants and allied Sunni tribal militia fighters on June 24 were continuing battles aimed at consolidating control of territory they have seized recently in the western province of Anbar and to the north of Baghdad.

Iraqi military officials are denying claims by ISIL that it fully captured the country's main oil refinery at Baiji near Mosul on June 24.

The refinery has been surrounded by ISIL fighters and production has been cut during the siege, causing fuel shortages in the Kurdish region, Baghdad, and southern Iraq.

Government forces say they carried out a series of air strikes on June 24 against militants who are besieging the refinery, claiming that dozens were killed. It was not immediately possible to verify those casualty claims.

Government forces also say they repelled a militant assault early on June 24 aimed at capturing the strategically vital Haditha hydroelectric dam on the Euphrates River in Anbar Province.

The Haditha dam is the largest hydroelectric contributor to Iraq's power system and also forms a large artificial lake, Lake Qadisiya, used to irrigate farm plots that produce a substantial amount of food.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, BBC, and dpa
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