Kurds gain more ter­ri­tory after break­ing siege of Mount Sin­jar

The Kurdish Globe - - NEWS -

Kur­dish forces claimed to have seized more ter­ri­tory fol­low­ing break­ing the siege of Sin­jar moun­tain in what they called their big­gest vic­tory yet in their war against Is­lamic State.

A se­nior Kur­dish of­fi­cial said the pesh­merga forces had driven the Is­lamist mil­i­tants out of Snuny dis­trict north of the moun­tain on Fri­day, bring­ing them closer to re­tak­ing the en­tire Sin­jar area on the bor­der with Syria in north­west of Iraq. Is­lamic State cap­tured huge swathes of Syria and Iraq ear­lier this year, killing or driv­ing out thou­sands of Shi'ites and non-Mus­lims from the re­gion. But now the tide of fight­ing has been re­versed.

Helped by in­ten­si­fied coali­tion air strikes, the Pesh­merga fought their way to the east­ern tip of the Sin­jar moun­tain range on Thurs­day, open­ing a cor­ri­dor for tens of thou­sands of mi­nor­ity Yazidis who had been trapped there for months.

"Un­til now we haven't started evac­u­at­ing peo­ple. We are still tak­ing up de­fen­sive po­si­tions. Then we will bring them down," said Zaim Ali, the com- man­der of Pesh­merga for Sin­jar, Zu­mar and Mo­sul dam ar­eas.

The Kur­dish Pres­i­dent Mas­soud Barzani is per­son­ally di­rect­ing the of­fen­sive, in which as many as 8,000 Pesh­merga are tak­ing part.

The aim of the op­er­a­tion is to reach Sin­jar town on the south­ern side of the moun­tain, which sits on a road link­ing Mo­sul to neigh­bor­ing Syria and is a key sup­ply route for the mil­i­tants.

Sin­jar has be­come highly sym­bolic for the Kurds, whose rep­u­ta­tion as fear­some war­riors was bruised after Is­lamic State over­pow­ered the Pesh­merga and killed or cap­tured hun­dreds of Yazidis in Au­gust.

U.S. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama cited the duty to pre­vent an im­pend­ing "geno­cide" of Yazidis by Is­lamic State as one of the main mo­tives for au­tho­ris­ing air strikes in Iraq this sum­mer.

Since then, Kur­dish forces have re­gained most of the ground they lost in north­ern Iraq, but Sin­jar's awk­ward ge­og­ra­phy, out on a limb to the west, has made it dif­fi­cult to pen- etrate.

Mas­rour Barzani, Head of the Iraqi Kur­dish Re­gion's Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil, said on Fri­day the U.S.-led air strikes had killed a se­nior Is­lamic State fig­ure in Mo­sul on Wed­nes­day .He was iden­ti­fied as Shi­hab Ahmed Has­san al-Luhai- bi, the Is­lamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Bagh­dadi's deputy for mil­i­tary af­fairs in Nin­eveh prov­ince and head of se­cu­rity for Mo­sul.

"The Pesh­merga ad­vanced from Zu­mar, east of Sin­jar, re­cap­tur­ing 270 square miles in just a few days," Mas­rour Barzani added.

Barzani said the Pesh­merga sol­diers fought alone with no support from the Iraqi army and did not have heavy weapons. The only out­side support, he said, were air strikes car­ried out by the in­ter­na­tion- al coali­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to the UN, more than 500,000 Yazidis and mem­bers of other mi­nor­ity re­li­gions have fled north­ern Iraq since June and hun­dreds more have been killed.

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