Tal Afar, located between Mosul and the Syrian border, was considered strategically important to the Iraqi government because it offered an outpost within the otherwise Sunni-controlled Ninevah governorate, which ISIS seized last week.
On Sunday, militants shelled Tal Afar with eyewitnesses describing militants roaming the city of 200,000 people in pick-up trucks mounted with machine guns and flying the black jihadist flag.
The government of Iraq claims Tal Afar is not totally in ISIS control, and that the government still has the upper hand.
The Iraqi defense ministry said Monday that it has "regained the initiative" since the Sunni Islamists launched their lightening offensive a week earlier.
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