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ISIS seizes Tal Afar in northwestern Iraq

Militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIS) have seized the northwestern city of Tal Afar in the Ninawa Governorate west of Mosul Sunday, security sources told Anadolu news agency.

Most of Tal Afar, located 60 km west of Mosul, is now controlled by ISIS after Iraqi government forces fled the Turkmen-majority city.

Hundreds of Turkmen-Shiite families have fled to the Shiite district of Sinjar northwest of Mosul, which is subject to the control of the Peshmerga, (Army of northern Iraq), while hundreds of Sunni families fled to the city of Mosul, the source said, on condition of anonymity.

Iraqi government security forces have fled in the direction of Sinjar, but Peshmega confiscated their weapons before letting them enter the city.

Anadolu news agency reported on Saturday that ISIS had contacted tribal leaders and security directors in Tal Afar, demanding safe entry and vowing not to attack the city. The request, however, has been rejected. This was preceded by an announcement that 8,000 Turkmens have joined government forces to fight against ISIS.

Tal Afar district is considered the connection point between Mosul city and Syrian borders.

Turkmens currently constitute 5-6% of Iraqi population, and are distributed among four governorates, namely Kirkuk, Mosul, Salaheddin, and Dialy.

A number of Sunni Arab groups, led by ISIS, have launched military operations since Tuesday and seized a number of governorates, including Ninawi and Salaheddin (north), Dialy (east), and Anbar (west).

The Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose term has come to an end, labels the Sunni groups as "terrorists" and "extremists", whereas Sunni leaders considerthe military operations as a Sunni revolution against the sectarian policies of the Shiite al-Maliki government.

 

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