Comparative victory analysis
TAL AFAR, Iraq - Insurgents melted into the countryside around Tal Afar, the militant stronghold near the Syrian border, and guns fell silent Sunday — the second day of an offensive by 5,000 Iraqi soldiers backed by 3,500 American troops and armor.
On the first day of the push into the city Saturday, troops conducted house-to-house searches and U.S. armor battered down stone walls in the narrow, winding streets of the old city.
After stiff initial resistance, insurgents in the largely ethnic Turkmen city of 200,000 had vanished. Tal Afar is about 60 miles from the Syrian border in northwestern Iraq.
Col. H.R. McMasters, commander of the American contingent of 3,500 U.S. troops from the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, said the ancient Sarai neighborhood — thought to be insurgent headquarters — was nearly deserted when the fighting died down late Saturday.
"The enemy decided to bail out," he said.
TAL AFAR, Iraq (Reuters) - The Iraqi army has killed up to 200 insurgents in Tal Afar, military officials said on Monday, as troops continued mopping up suspects in the northern town.
Abdelaziz Jasim, the defense ministry official in charge of operations in Tal Afar, said his forces were nearly in control of western areas of the city.
"Overall 157 terrorists have been killed and 291 arrested since the beginning of the operations," he told a news briefing in Baghdad.
"We have cleared Sarai totally and now we will clear other neighborhoods," a senior officer in Tal Afar, who gave his name only as Colonel Khalaf, told Reuters, referring to a central district at the heart of the insurgency.
"Under our plan, by Thursday the city should be clear and safe," he added.
The Monday story doesn't mention anything about when they 'vanished,' or when or how they re-materialized.