As Iraq moves closer to civil war, Sunni militants are said to have made key gains in their campaign to create an Islamic Caliphate straddling the frontier with Syria.
Not only have fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant group seized a strategic border post according to security sources but the rebels say they have taken control of two more towns.
And then there’s Iraq’s biggest oil refinery at Baiji, 200 km north of the capital near Tikrit. Now transformed into a battlefield, ISIL claims the refinery is largely in its hands.
As the Sunni insurgents gain strength for an eventual attack on Baghdad, Shi’ite militia there have put on their own massive show of strength.
In the Sadr City area, thousands of fighters loyal to the hardline Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr paraded, displaying their weaponry.
Sadr has yet to throw his followers into the recent wave of fighting but the fear is that a bloody, head-on confrontation is just a matter of time.