Tal Afar, a strategic town in northern Iraq, fell to Sunni militants who also took control of the town’s airport on Monday.

"The town of Tal Afar and the airport ... are completely under the control of the militants," a local official told Agence France-Presse. The government disputed accounts from witnesses who said Iraqi security forces abandoned the area. But Lt. Gen. Qassem Atta, security spokesman for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, added “even if we withdrew from Tal Afar or any other area, this does not mean that this is a defeat."

Tal Afar sits along a highway that connects with Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, which is also under militant control, with Syria, making it a strategic town in the battle between Iraqi security forces and the al-Qaeda offshoot, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.

ISIS militants launched major offensives in Iraq earlier this month that led to the fall of Mosul. The group also took control over other areas in northern and north-central Iraq. The latest map put together by the nonprofit Institute for the Study of War in Washington, D.C., shows that the towns of Rawa and Ana were taken over by ISIS over the weekend and that Kurdish forces now control Khanaqin, in north-central Iraq.