The mainly ethnic Turkmen town of Tel Afer and its airport were in the hands of Sunni Arab militants on June 23 after days of heavy fighting, a local official and witnesses said.

“The town of Tel Afer and the airport … are completely under the control of the militants,” the official said on condition of anonymity. Witnesses said security forces had departed the town, and confirmed that militants were in control.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s security spokesman, Lieutenant General Qassem Atta, said on television that security forces were still fighting in the Telafer area. But he added: “Even if we withdrew from Tel Afer or any other area, this does not mean that it is a defeat.” […]