Iraq has formally called on the United States of America to launch air strikes against jihadist militants who have seized several key cities across the country. US military commander Gen Martin Dempsey confirmed that the US “have a request from the Iraqi government for air power”. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has urged Iraqis to unite against the militants.

The call for US military aid was announced after militants launched an attack on Iraq’s biggest oil refinery in Northern Baghdad. The government forces are fighting to push back ISIS (Islamic state of Iraq and the Levant) and its Sunni Muslim allies Diyala and Salahuddin provinces, after the militants overran the second city of Mosul.

Meanwhile, ISIS has launched multiple attacks across Northern Iraq and has taken over from the al-Qa’ida organisation founded by Osama bin Laden as the most powerful and effective extreme jihadi group in the world. It is now thought that ISIS controls or operates with impunity within mass stretches of territory in Western Iraq and Eastern Syria, making it militarily the most successful jihadi movement ever.

Since 2010, it has been led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, also known as Abu Dua and has now proved itself to be even more violent and sectarian than, what US officials call, the “core” al-Qa’ida, led by Ayman al-Zawahiri and based in Pakistan. US President, Barack Obama is due to discuss the Iraq Crisis with senior Congress members.

Meanwhile, in the UK, David Cameron has warned of a threat to the UK if an ‘extreme Islamic regime’ is created in Central Iraq. He said ISIS fighters threatening the government in Baghdad were also plotting terror attacks on the UK and Britain could not ignore the security threat the UK now faced from jihadists in Iraq and Syria. Downing Street said 65 people have been arrested in the past 18 months for Syria-related jihadist activities. A spokesman was unable to say how many of those arrested were supporters or members of ISIS.