About 500-thousand residents in Iraq's second biggest city of Mosul have fled after Islamist militants overran much of the city.
ISIL, or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, an offshoot of al-Qaida, launched the attack on the city today, seizing the governor's headquarters and rampaging through police stations.
Hundreds of detainees are reported to have been set free.
Roads across the city are now packed with cars as thousands of residents make their way to border crossings into the autonomous Kurdish province of Irbil.
There are no immediate estimates on how many people were killed in the assault.
Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has already asked parliament to declare a state of emergency.
"We have to declare a comprehensive mobilisation and the utmost alert in political, financial and popular capabilities to defeat terrorism and bring life to normal in all areas occupied by terrorists, either in Mosul or any other city."
Under the constitution, parliament can declare a 30-day state of emergency on a two-thirds vote by its members, granting the prime minister the necessary powers to run the country.
That could include powers to impose curfews and restrict public movements.
Earlier this year, the ISIS captured the city of Fallujah in the west of the country.
Mosul and surrounding Ninevah province are a major export route for Iraqi oil and a gateway to Syria.
For more on the issue, CRI's Xu Qinduo earlier talked to Dr. Mansour O. El-Kikhia with the Department of Political Science and Geography University of Texas.