Barzani Announces Sinjar’s Liberation
Kurdistan Regional Government Massoud Barzani announced the liberation of the town of Sinjar from the Islamic State group, the latest in a series of setbacks for the jihadists. The offensive cut a key supply line linking jihadist-held areas in Iraq with those in Syria. “We delivered on our pledge to liberate Sinjar,” Barzani declared. “I thank you America and the Kurdish people,“the president said.
The US-led coalition carried out upwards of 250 strikes in support of the Sinjar operation, killing an estimated more than 200 IS fighters, Colonel Steve Warren, spokesman for the international operation against the jihadists, told a news conference Friday.
"Sinjar is very important because it has become a symbol of the injustice against the people of Kurdistan," Barzani reminded the world. Near the time of the liberation Barzani told a news conference near the northern town: "I am here to announce the liberation of Sinjar."
His remarks also made clear that political conflict over Sinjar would be likely to follow the military battle for the town. "Sinjar was liberated by the blood of the Peshmerga and became part of Kurdistan," Barzani said.
Hundreds of Kurdish fighters, dressed in camouflage uniforms and armed with assault rifles and machineguns, moved into the town on foot, an AFP journalist reported. Carrying the Kurdish region's flag, they fired into the air and shouted "Long live the Peshmerga!" and "Long live Kurdistan!"
Following the operation, Kurdistan Regional Security Council issued a statement reading that: “Operation Free Sinjar supervised by President Massoud Barzani and supported by the International Coalition, concluded at approximately 1500hrs on 13 November 2015 as Peshmerga forces successfully reached Sinjar town.”
Operation Free Sinjar achieved its primary objectives: to cordon off Sinjar town, disrupt Highway 47 from East and West Sinjar, and create a buffer zone. In the course of the two-day operation, 28 villages were retaken from Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL); more than 300 terrorists were killed by Peshmerga forces and Coalition warplanes, and over 200 square kilometres were cleared and returned to the Kurdistan Region.
In his speech, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani announced that: “Liberation of Sinjar is very important to the people of Kurdistan and the civilized world. The ISIS terrorists have committed grave crimes in Syria and Iraq but the most barbaric and heinous crimes were committed in Sinjar.” The PM described the crime committed against the Kurdish Yazidis as “Anfal against Kurds in Sinjar”.
“I am pleased to inform the beloved people of Sinjar,“PM Barzani said, “that we will take all the legal and administrative measures in support of their demand to turn Sinjar into a province.”
The gains against IS are the latest sign that the jihadist group, which won a series of victories in a stunningly rapid offensive in Iraq last year, is now on the defensive. Inside Sinjar, many houses and shops, a petrol station and the local government headquarters have been destroyed. Burned out cars sat in the streets, while barrels apparently containing explosives had been left behind.
The huge task of clearing Sinjar of bombs planted by IS remains, and there is also the possibility of holdout jihadists, who have kept up attacks even after other areas in Iraq were said to have been retaken.
In remarks Friday, US President Barack Obama expressed satisfaction with efforts against IS, saying the group's expansion has been curbed. "From the start, our goal has been first to contain, and we have contained them," Obama said. In a rare admission on Thursday, the Pentagon said US ground forces advising the Kurds on their offensive were close enough to the front to identify IS targets and call in strikes.
Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook told reporters most of the US-led coalition troops were behind the front lines working with Kurdish commanders. “But there are some advisers who are on Sinjar Mountain, assisting in the selection of air strike tar- gets".
"Sinjar sits astride Highway 47, which is a key and critical resupply route for IS,” Warren said. "By seizing Sinjar, we'll be able to cut that line of communication, which we believe will constrict [IS's] ability to resupply themselves, and is a critical first step in the eventual liberation of Mosul," he said of the jihadists' main hub in Iraq.
IS overran Sinjar in August last year, forcing thousands of Yazidis to flee to the mountains overlooking the town, where they were trapped by the jihadists. The United Nations has described the attack on the Yazidis as a possible genocide.