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New Iraqi Kurd offensive at Mt. Sinjar

December 20, 2014

Kurdish peshmerga forces have brought aid to civilians and fighters taking refuge from jihadist militants on Mt. Sinjar in Iraq's northwest. The peshmerga broke a months-old siege by the militants earlier this week.

Peshmerga fighters deployed in Kesarej village of Zumar city in Nineveh Governorate of northern Iraq flash victory sign on a pick-up car while shipping military ammunition including missiles, mortars and armored military vehicles in order to fight against Islamic State in Sinjar district. (Emrah Yorulmaz/Anadolu Agency)
Image: picture-alliance/Emrah Yorulmaz/Anadolu Agency

Iraqi Kurd forces on Saturday delivered food and other aid to civilians and fighters who have been trapped on Mt. Sinjar since September, many of them after fleeing from jihadist militants belonging to the "Islamic State" (IS) group.

Iraq's Kurdistan Region Security Council (KRSC) said in a statement that 32 trucks carrying food and water along with other aid supplies traveled to Mt. Sinjar from the northern city of Erbil through the "corridor established by the courageous peshmerga forces."

The aid delivery got through three days after the Kurdish peshmerga forces launched a major operation against the IS group in the region, backed by heavy airstrikes carried out by a US-led coalition. A number of villages were recaptured from the IS militants, forcing the jihadists to flee west to Syria or east to Mosul, Iraq's second largest city.

The KRSC said the peshmerga launched a new offensive toward Mt. Sinjar on Saturday, capturing the nearby area of Mushrefa. It said the Kurdish forces were now closing in on the town of Sinjar to the south of the mountain and Tal Afar to its east.

The report has not been independently verified.

Dramatic siege

In August, tens of thousands of members of the Yazidi religious minority were trapped on Mt. Sinjar for days in searing temperatures after IS overran the Iraqi towns of Sinjar and Zumar. Many were eventually evacuated through a corridor through Syria back into Iraq that had been opened by a Kurdish coalition of forces.

That coalition is now trying to reopen the same corridor, which would make it possible to evacuate more of the civilians on Sinjar to Iraqi Kurdistan via Syria.

The IS group captured almost a third of Iraq and Syria earlier this year in a campaign characterized by extreme violence and brutality.

The siege on Mt. Sinjar was a major factor in prompting US President Barack Obama to approve airstrikes by US-led forces in both countries.

tj/mg (AFP, AP)