United States Secretary of State John Kerry landed in Baghdad last night on a surprise trip to push for Iraqi unity and stability, as Sunni militants advanced in west Iraq after security forces retreated.

Flying in from Jordan on a visit which the State Department had sought to keep secret amid security concerns, Kerry was to meet beleaguered Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Iraqi leaders across the political and communal spectrum.

US President Barack Obama said earlier he would not play a global game of "whack-a-mole" against al-Qaeda groups, warning Middle Eastern leaders that it was their own job to halt the region's security slide.

Suggesting his frustration at the ease with which jihadists have swept through northern Iraq, Obama said it was up to local security forces to prevent them destabilising the entire region.


"What we can't do is think that we're just going to play whack-a-mole and send US troops occupying various countries wherever these organisations pop up. We're going to have to have a more focused, more targeted strategy and we're going to have to train local law enforcement and military to do their jobs." As Obama spoke, Isis fighters appeared to have seized the border crossing of al-Walid with Syria and Turaibil with Jordan, as well as the town of Rutba on the Iraq-Jordan motorway. After the capture of the main Syrian border crossing at Qaim on Saturday, it means Baghdad is effectively cut off from the north and west.

In Qaim, there were claims that 70 volunteers, who had come to assist the Iraqi Army from Baghdad, had been killed. The men had apparently travelled towards Qaim hidden in frozen food trucks, only to be rumbled by Isis gunmen. Separate reports said that a total of 21 local leaders had been killed by Isis in the newly captured towns.

Isis militants were also said to have taken US Humvees captured in Iraq into Syria, using them in fighting in Aleppo province.

The prospect of Isis's black flag now fluttering on the border of Jordan, a key US ally, shows the potential for the violence to spread right through the Middle East.