Peshmerga forces have gained more ground in Iraq after taking control of a large section of Sinjar from Islamic State (IS) militants. Kurdish authorities said their forces were able to take back the area during their efforts to break the siege on Mount Sinjar. The Kurdish Peshmerga forces entered Sinjar on Sunday with the support of U.S.-led coalition forces.
A Peshmerga soldier Kamran Kochar, said that after trying to attack Sinjar two or three times in the night without success, the militants fled to Jordan and Syria. Although some fighting continues, he said most of the city has now been freed.
Mount Sinjar was been freed after a three-month siege during which thousands of Yazidi and other refugees had remained trapped. Iraqi Kurdish leader President Massoud Barzani, said freeing the center of Sinjar was not in the original plan. President Barzani said he was pleased with the Peshmerga troops’ progress, and that the roads were again open and under Iraqi control. Civilians who are still on the mountain are now able to receive supplies from convoys.
Head of the Kurdish autonomic regions national security council Masrour Barzani, toured the coalition’s forward positions, celebrating their victory. Mr. Barzani, who is the son of President Barzani, said the military operation against ISIL was the biggest to date, and the greatest victory so far for the Peshmerga, who continue to gain more ground in Iraq. Mr. Barzani said the operation had resulted in the deaths of around 100 ISIS fighters.
At one stage, Mount Sinjar had held up to 40,000 stranded Yazidis, Kurds, Christians and Turkmen who had fled when the Islamic militants advanced through the region. Now however the 2,000 people who had remained when fighting to free them ceased, are also free, and many are looking forward to returning to their homes. However fighters say there are still many dangers in the villages, as bombs and booby traps have been left behind by the militants.
Many of the 2,000 refugees do not want to go back to the villages. Yazidi doctor Saad Babir, had spent several weeks living them and said they did not want to leave the mountain as it now their home. He added that they urgently need supplies. He said aid in the form of baby milk and winter clothing is needed.
Although the coalition forces have had recent victories, in other regions the Islamist militants still control large areas of Syria and Iraq. On Sunday, ISIL claimed it had retaken Beiji, in the north of Baghdad. The city and its oil refinery has been the focus of continued fighting for several months, in a back and forth struggle.
Aside from full-frontal attacks, the Islamist militants have also left bombs and death-traps in many of the villages they had previously occupied. In one village called Hukna, three barrels of explosives were found under a bridge. In another village, burned out army vehicles remain as a reminder of a suicide attack which killed one Peshmerga fighter on Tuesday.
While attacks from the Islamist militants continue, other regions report successes in liberating more towns, as Peshmerga fighters continue their campaign to gain ground in Iraq. Mr. Barzani said although their troops needed more heavy military equipment, they were now receiving training and support from other countries. He added that they would continue to free all that they can of Kurdistan.
By Monica Grant
Photo by The U.S. Army – Flickr License