Kurds say they’ve retaken territory near Sinjar Mountain in northern Iraq
Kurdish Peshmerga forces say they've recaptured territory near Sinjar Mountain in northern Iraq, where dramatic airdrops were made last summer to the Yazidis, one of Iraq's smallest minorities.
The Kurdish military says it has "cleansed" the area of ISIS fighters with the help of coalition airstrikes.
The operation represents the single biggest and most successful military offensive against ISIS, said the Kurdistan Region Security Council in a news release.
Last summer, the siege of Sinjar forced the Yazidis, one of Iraq's smallest minorities, to flee the ISIS advance.
They found refuge in the surrounding mountains but were trapped without food, water or medical care in the heat before coalition forces airdropped supplies and rescued some of them.
Thousands of Yazidis fled on foot to Syria. Only a few hundred are left on Sinjar Mountain.
The plight of the Yazidis, coupled with the ISIS assault against Iraq's semiautonomous Kurdish region, prompted the United States to begin targeted airstrikes in Iraq last August.
Coalition aircraft conducted 48 airstrikes near Sinjar on Tuesday night, the heaviest concentrations of airstrikes to date, according to two US defense officials.
The U.S. military says it has conducted 1,300 airstrikes to slow down ISIS.
In November, airstrikes killed two top-level and one mid-level ISIS leader, including Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's deputy and the emir of Mosul, a senior U.S. military official told CNN.
The most recent airstrikes were aimed at supporting Peshmerga fighters efforts to open a land corridor from Sinjar north to Dohuk in northern Iraq, officials said.
"We have opened a corri- dor from south of Zummar to the Mountain Sinjar," said Masrour Barzani, chancellor of the Kurdistan Region Security Council, on Thursday.
The corridor enabled the Peshmerga to gain direct access to displaced people trapped on Mount Sinjar and to provide humanitarian support, he said.
ISIS fighters fled toward the Syrian border and ISIS strongholds such as Mosul and Tal 'Afar, the Kurdistan Region Security Council news release said.
"ISIS is always making damage, killed the people, steal the stuff, kidnapping people, taking money from people. That's what ISIS is doing, and that's not Islam," said Peshmerga fighter Khalid Suleymen Kolaoh, who was on the front line.
"We're not seeing the broad offensive movement we saw in May and June," Gen. James Terry, commander of Operation Inherent Resolve, told reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday.
He said the military is seeing signs that ISIS is having a hard time communicating with its fighters and resupplying them. There's also social media traffic out of Mosul that shows an "inability of their self-declared caliphate to govern population centers," Terry said.