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Peshmerga advance against IS in Sinjar

December 21, 2014

Soldiers of the Kurdish peshmerga army have pushed back IS militants in the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar. The peshmerga offensive has triggered heavy clashes in the town.

Kurden drängen IS im Sinjar-Gebirge zurück 20.12.2014
Image: Reuters/Massoud Mohammed

The Kurdish peshmerga has made substantial gains against "Islamic State" (IS) militants, taking over parts of northern Iraq's Sinjar on Sunday after recapturing 2,700 kilometers (1678 square miles) from the jihadist group in the past few days, Kurdish media quoted by DPA news agency say.

The Kurds were backed by air power from the US-led coalition as they sought to drive the IS back from territory the militants captured earlier in the year, according to unnamed military officials cited by Kurdish broadcaster Rudaw.

"During the past 48 hours, the peshmerga opened two main routes to Mount Sinjar…a large part of the center of the town of Sinjar was also liberated," Iraqi Kurdish leader Massud Barzani said in remarks carried by the French news agency AFP.

Peshmerga fighters launched an offensive last week to retake Sinjar and managed to free a passage to Mount Sinjar which allowed the evacuation of thousands of Yazidis who had been fleeing from the IS. Some refugees from the minority community had been trapped on the mountain since the first IS siege this year in August.

IS executions

But the peshmerga were still struggling to regain full control of Sinjar town. Spokesman for the Kurdish forces, Jabbar Yawar, said that IS militants were still inside the town and it was "far from cleared," the Associated Press reported.

The peshmerga's victory in Sinjar was the biggest victory in months. Earlier on Sunday, IS fighters were reported to have executed several of their own members who had failed to hold the Kurds back.

A day before, reports emerged that the jihadists, who took over large swathes of northern Iraq and Syria early this year, had executed 100 members who were planning to flee from the northern Syrian city of Raqqa.

mg/tj (dpa, AP, AFP)