Iraqi Kurdish forces have taken control of Kirkuk after Iraqi security forces evacuated the northern city amid attacks by Islamist militants nearby, according to reports.
A Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) spokesman told Reuters that the Kurdish Peshmurga army had seized the whole city, which is the hub of northern Iraqs oil industry.
The presence of the Kurdish army should provide a bulwark in Kirkuk against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) fighters, which have taken control of nearby Mosul and Tikrit in recent days.
Kirkuk has historically had a strong Kurdish presence but many were driven from the area under Saddam Husseins Arabisation programme and replaced by settlers from central and southern Iraq.
The Isis attacks have been condemned by the UN and the US government. Washington said it would support a response by Baghdad to launch a counterattack against the insurgents.
According to reports, Iraqi security forces offered little resistance in Mosul and Tikrit to the Isis fighters, who took over police stations and, in Mosul, released hundreds of prisoners.
Al-Maliki has vowed to fight back against Isis forces and asked parliament to declare a state of emergency, which would expand the governments powers to make arrests and enforce curfews.
However, session of parliament in Baghdad was reportedly abandoned after failing to gather the required number of MPs to vote on a state of emergency.
Isis, which grew out of an Al-Qaeda-linked organisation in Iraq, is estimated to have up to 5,000 fighters holding a territory stretching from the eastern side of Aleppo in Syria to Fallujah less than 100 kilometres west of Baghdad.