The Sunni militant group that took over Mosul and Tikrit last week claimed an Iraqi city of 200,000 people early Monday morning. The Associated Press reports that Islamic State in Iraq and Syria began attacking Tal Afar, located about 260 miles from Bagdad and less than 100 miles from Syria, on Sunday, firing rockets and roaming the town in trucks outfitted with machine guns and black jihadi banners. Residents told the AP that local security forces and some Shiite families eventually fled the area, while “local tribesmen who continued to fight later surrendered to the militants.”
Tel Afar’s capture came just after ISIS released a series of grisly photos showing the mass execution of Iraq’s Shiite soldiers in Tikrit. (The extremists claimed to have killed 1,700 of the government troops, though that number still hasn’t been verified). As the threat of Iraq descending into all-out sectarian warfare increases, the Obama administration has indicated that it may be open to working with Iran to end the crisis. For now, the country’s Shiites seem to be mostly heeding top cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani’s request that they “exert the highest possible level of self-restraint during this tumultuous period,” though thousands have also answered al-Sistani’s previous call to join militias intended to fight the insurgents.