Monday, January 22, 2018

ISIS takes last major city in northern Iraq

IRBIL, Iraq — The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria claimed control Monday of the last major city that had been held by the government in northern Iraq.

The government denied that Tal Afar had fallen to ISIS, but that assertion was contradicted by hundreds of families who fled for safety to nearby areas controlled by Kurdish militias.

If confirmed, ISIS' capture of Tal Afar would allow the group to consolidate its control of a strategic supply corridor between its Syrian and Iraq strongholds.

It would also end, at least for now, any claim by the central government in Baghdad to authority in northern Iraq and would allow ISIS to claim for its nascent Islamist caliphate a contiguous territory that stretches from the Syrian city of Raqqa through Iraq's Nineveh province to the outskirts of Baghdad.

The fall of Tal Afar would be freighted with historic import. American troops battled ISIS' early incarnation, al-Qaida in Iraq, for control of the city in 2005. At one time, the pacification of Tal Afar was considered a major triumph for U.S. forces.

There were also reports that a major battle was unfolding for the former U.S. military base at Taji, 20 miles north of Baghdad. Residents reached by phone reported that ISIS and its Sunni tribal allies had mounted a two-pronged assault on the base from the west and the north.

The residents described heavy outgoing and incoming artillery fire and said Iraqi army forces were pulling back from the outskirts of town toward the base as they were attacked.

The Taji base, which was known as Camp Cooke to thousands of American service members in Iraq, is the country's largest military facility, and the town is the most important population center still in government hands on the northern approaches to the capital.

Refugees and residents from Tal Afar who spoke with relatives in Irbil described Tal Afar as mostly in ISIS' control, though some skirmishing was still taking place.

Large numbers of Christians who fled villages outside Tal Afar also were among the refugees.

"They are driving the people from their homes," said Avi, a Christian from Irbil who asked that his last name be withheld because he has family members living outside Tal Afar. "They murdered us in 2005, and the Americans could not protect us" he said, referring to al-Qaida in Iraq's activities in the city during the earlier conflict. "Now the Iraqi government cannot protect us. There is nothing left in Iraq for Christians."

The rapid advance by ISIS to the outskirts of Baghdad has put the capital on edge. On Monday, the United Nations announced that it would pull at least 58 staff members from its mission in Baghdad and move them to Amman, Jordan. The announcement came a day after the United States said it had reassigned an undisclosed number of staffers from its embassy in Baghdad to Amman or the relative safety of Irbil or Basra, in southern Iraq.

Comments

Here is the latest Florida sports news from The Associated Press

Here is the latest Florida sports news from The Associated Press
Updated: 3 minutes ago

Weekend Sports in Brief

Weekend Sports in Brief
Updated: 7 minutes ago
Turkish troops face fierce battles in Syrian Kurdish enclave

Turkish troops face fierce battles in Syrian Kurdish enclave

Syria's Kurdish militia says it's repelled Turkish troops from villages seized in Ankara's offensive against enclave
Updated: 7 minutes ago
Some of the powerful SAG Awards moments witnessed off-camera

Some of the powerful SAG Awards moments witnessed off-camera

Some of the powerful SAG Awards moments witnessed off-camera include Sterling K. Brown's emotional reaction to 'This Is Us' win, Janney's empathy for Tonya Harding
Updated: 9 minutes ago

Fugitive Puigdemont arrives in Copenhagen

The fugitive former leader of Catalonia has arrived in Denmark, despite threats from Spain to seek his immediate arrest there
Updated: 17 minutes ago
Head of Russian outlet RT says US foreign agent order hurts

Head of Russian outlet RT says US foreign agent order hurts

The head of Russian television channel RT says Washington's order requiring the Kremlin-funded outlet to register as a foreign agent is hurting business and morale
Updated: 24 minutes ago
Head of Russian outlet RT says US foreign agent order hurts

Head of Russian outlet RT says US foreign agent order hurts

The head of Russian television channel RT says Washington's order requiring the Kremlin-funded outlet to register as a foreign agent is hurting business and morale
Updated: 24 minutes ago
Indonesia investigates online insults of Brunei's sultan

Indonesia investigates online insults of Brunei's sultan

The Sultan of Brunei has made a complaint of defamation to the Indonesian police about an Instagram account that criticized the wealthy autocratic leader of Southeast Asia's smallest nation
Updated: 25 minutes ago
With a lighter touch, SAG Awards follows a familiar script

With a lighter touch, SAG Awards follows a familiar script

With the familiar SAG script, awards shows in the Me Too and Time's Up moment have shifted into cruise control
Updated: 26 minutes ago
Kerber avoids major upset; Federer into 14th QF in Australia

Kerber avoids major upset; Federer into 14th QF in Australia

Angelique Kerber remains the only Grand Slam singles winner in the Australian Open women's draw after avoiding a major upset
Updated: 1 hour ago