Sunni militants captured the northern Iraqi town of Tal Afar early on Monday, its mayor and residents said, the latest blow to the nation’s Shiite-led government a week after it lost a vast swath of territory in the country’s north.
Tal Afar Mayor Abdulal Abdoul told The Associated Press that his town, 420 kilometers (260 miles) northwest of Baghdad, was taken just before dawn. The town has a population of some 200,000 people, mostly ethnic Shiite and Sunni Turkomen.
The ethnic mix of Tal Afar raises the grim specter of large-scale atrocities by the Sunni militants, who already claim to have killed hundreds of Shiites in areas they captured last week.
Tal Afar residents reached by phone confirmed the town’s capture by militants. They spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing for their safety.
The fall of Tal Afar comes a week after militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant captured Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, and Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit in a lightening offensive.
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