Insurgents seized a mainly ethnic Turkmen city in northwestern Iraq on June 15 after heavy fighting, solidifying their grip on the north after a lightning offensive that threatens to dismember Iraq.
Residents reached by telephone in the city of Telafer said it had fallen to the militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) after a battle that saw heavy casualties on both sides. “The city was overrun by militants. Severe fighting took place, and many people were killed. Shiite families have fled to the west and Sunni families have fled to the east,” said a city official who asked not to be identified.
Tal Afar is a short drive west from Mosul, the north’s main city, which the ISIL militants seized last week. The city had been defended by an unit of Iraq’s security forces commanded by a Shiite major general, Abu Walid, whose men were among the few holdouts from the government’s forces in the province around Mosul not to flee the rapid ISIL advance.
After sweeping through towns in the Tigris valley north of Baghdad, ISIL militants appear to have halted their advance outside the capital, instead moving to tighten their grip on the north. Most of the inhabitants of Telafer are members of the Turkmen ethnic group. Turkey has expressed concern about their security.