Militants with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) captured the city of Tal Afar, near the Syrian border, as the Sunni jihadists and allied rebels reportedly advanced toward Baghdad on Monday.
Dulaim tribal leader Sheikh Ali Hatem al-Suleiman al-Dulaimi told Al-Arabiya on Monday that members of ISIS comprised only 5 to 7 percent of the insurgents battling Iraqi security forces. The decision to head toward Baghdad was made during a meeting near the Iraqi capital that was attended by tribal rebel military leaders.
“Tribal forces are capable of eliminating terrorists if Maliki withdraws his forces,” Hatem said. “We’ve done it before, we can do it again.”
Tribal rebel spokesman Abu Abd al-Nuami said several areas in north and north-central Iraq were under the control of forces battling Iraq’s Shiite-led government.
“Districts and provinces like Salah al-Din, al-Huwaija, al-Rashad, Diyala are all under the control of tribal rebels, except the city of Baaqouba, where the clashes are still raging,” he said.
Meanwhile, ISIS-led fighters seized Tal Afar, about 37 miles from the Syrian border, in northwestern Iraq, on Monday after intense fighting erupted in the key Iraqi city of 200,000 on Sunday. The city sits along a highway that runs from Mosul to Syria. The battle forced residents, mainly ethnic Turkomen, to flee the city.
"Residents are gripped by fear and most of them have already left the town for areas held by Kurdish security forces," Tal Afar resident Hadeer al-Abadi told the Associated Press.
The city’s capture followed ISIS' taking of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, last week.
ISIS promised last week to march on Baghdad, but there were conflicting reports as to whether the Sunni militant group reached the Iraqi capital. Al-Arabiya reported clashes near the Baghdad airport. An Iraqi military spokesman said the airport had not come under attack and flights were resuming as normal, according to Borzou Daragahi, the Financial Times’ Middle East and North Africa correspondent.
For an up-to-date glimpse at the situation in Iraq, including recent clashes and areas controlled by ISIS, check out this map: