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ISIS "Defeated And On the Run" In Sinjar
Old 11-12-2015
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Default ISIS "Defeated And On the Run" In Sinjar

Kurdish Forces Launch Battle
to Retake Iraq's Sinjar Town

Smoke rises from the site of U.S.-led air strikes in the town of Sinjar, November 12, 2015.

BY ISABEL COLES - Thu Nov 12, 2015 6:01am EST

NEAR SINJAR TOWN, IRAQ | Backed by U.S. air strikes, Kurdish forces said they captured several villages in an offensive on Thursday to retake the Iraqi town of Sinjar from Islamic State militants who overran it more than a year ago.

Islamic State's killing and enslaving of thousands of the northern town's Yazidi residents focused international attention on the group's violent campaign to impose its radical ideology and prompted Washington to launch its air offensive.

Operation Free Sinjar aims to cordon off the town, take control of Islamic State supply routes and establish a buffer zone to protect the town from artillery, a statement from the Kurdish national security council said.

Sinjar is both a symbolic and a strategic prize, sitting astride the main highway linking the cities of Mosul and Raqqa - Islamic State's bastions in Iraq and Syria.

U.S.-led coalition air strikes pounded Islamic State-held areas in the town overnight, as around 7,500 Kurdish special forces, peshmerga and Yazidi fighters descended from the Sinjar mountain towards the front line in a military convoy.

The security council said Kurdish forces had captured a village to the west of Sinjar and two others on the eastern outskirts. Reuters could not independently confirm this.

Spirits were high among Kurdish commanders and local officials near the front line.

"It is going according to plan. We are optimistic and we consider today like a celebration," said Sinjar district mayor Mahma Xelil.

Kurdish forces and the U.S. military said the number of Islamic State fighters in the town had increased to nearly 600 after reinforcements arrived in the run-up to the offensive, which has been expected for weeks but delayed by the weather and friction between various Kurdish and Yazidi forces in Sinjar.

The offensive is being personally overseen by Kurdistan regional president Massoud Barzani, who is also head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which other groups in the area accuse of seeking to monopolize power.

Many Yazidis lost faith in the KDP when its forces failed to protect them from Islamic State militants, who consider them devil worshippers, when the group attacked Sinjar in August 2014, systematically slaughtering, enslaving and raping thousands of Yazidis.
Islamic State committed genocide in Iraq against Yazidis: report
A Syrian affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) came to the rescue, evacuating thousands of Yazidis stranded on Sinjar mountain and establishing a permanent base there.

Near the front lines on Thursday, a Kurdish officer stood behind a wall of sandbags. Sinjar, about 300 meters (980 feet)away, could be seen through a gap in a rampart.

Kurdish officers said an Islamic State sniper had taken up position in the town. Coordinates were passed to a joint operations room and within five minutes the position was bombed.

Islamic State militants could be heard communicating in Arabic and Turkmen in intercepted walkie-talkie chatter.

"Where are you," asked one. "Praise be to God," said another. One fighter noted that a car used by his comrades had been destroyed.

Loqman Ibrahim, head of the eight battalion, made up of Yazidis and under peshmerga command, said he heard militants urging each other to fight to the death and that an order was given not to withdraw.

Most Yazidis have been displaced to camps in the Kurdistan region; several thousand remain in Islamic State captivity.


The PKK has trained a Yazidi militia in Sinjar, while tribal groups operate independently. Several thousand Yazidis have also joined the peshmerga.

For Yazidi forces taking part, the battle is very much about retribution.

Hussein Derbo, the head of a peshmerga battalion made up of 440 Yazidis, said the men under his command could have migrated to Europe but chose to stay and fight.

"It is our land and our honor. They (Islamic State) stole our dignity. We want to get it back," he told Reuters in a village on the northern outskirts of Sinjar town.

Derbo's brother, Farman, echoed the sentiment, saying he hoped the militants would not retreat so the Yazidis could kill them all.

The forces, many wearing the thick mustache typical of Yazidis and carrying light weapons, had gathered at a staging position overnight. They traveled in a peshmerga convoy comprised of Humvees on flatbed trucks, heavy artillery, and fighters waving Kurdish flags, flashing peace signs and brandishing their rifles.

Hundreds of vehicles wound slowly downhill along the same road Yazidis had fled up last summer seeking safety from Islamic State. Abandoned cars and blood-stained clothing on the roadside were reminders of those chaotic scenes.

Around dawn, the fighters piled into their vehicles and headed to the front.

Authorizing the first strikes against Islamic State in August 2014, U.S. President Barack Obama cited a duty to prevent a genocide of Yazidis by the radical Islamists.

The U.S.-led coalition has carried out dozens of strikes in the past few weeks in support of the peshmerga, apparently coordinated with the Sinjar offensive.

In December 2014, Kurdish forces drove Islamic State from north of Sinjar mountain, a craggy strip about 60 km (40 miles) long, but the radical Sunni insurgents of Islamic State maintain control of the southern side where the town is located. The peshmerga currently control about 20 percent of the town.

Backed by U.S. air strikes, the peshmerga have also regained most of the ground they consider historically Kurdish. Sinjar is part of the disputed territories to which both the Iraqi federal government and regional Kurdish authorities lay claim.

(Writing by Stephen Kalin; Editing by Michael Georgy and Giles Elgood)



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Old 11-13-2015
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Islamic State 'Defeated And On Run' In Sinjar

09:41, UK, Friday 13 November 2015

Kurdish Iraqi fighters raise their flag in the center of the town after seizing control of some of its key buildings.

Kurdish fighters are in control of central Sinjar after taking it from Islamic State, the Kurdistan security council says.

Associated Press journalists reported seeing the fighters raise a Kurdish flag and fire off celebratory gunfire in the town on Friday morning.

Kurdish militia fighters, known as peshmerga, launched a major offensive to retake the town and cut a key highway on Thursday.

US-led coalition airstrikes supported the offensive, dubbed Operation Free Sinjar.

"ISIS defeated and on the run," the Kurdistan regional security council said in a tweet, using an acronym for Islamic State.

It said the peshmerga had secured a Sinjar silo, cement factory, hospital and several other public buildings.

Major Ghazi Ali, who oversees one of the units involved in the offensive, said thousands of Kurdish fighters entered the town from three directions and encountered minimal resistance.

He described the situation in the city as still dangerous, however, and warned it was too soon to declare victory.

Colonel Steven Warren, a spokesman for the US-led coalition, confirmed only that peshmerga fighters raised their flag on grain silos in the eastern part of the town.

He said they had not fully retaken Sinjar.

Kurdish fighters have been attempting to sever ISIS's primary line of communication between Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq.

The aim is to stop terrorists from being able to channel equipment and fighters into Iraq.

The jihadist group is facing pressure on multiple fronts in Syria but still has control of almost a third of Iraq.

The success comes as a leading British member of IS and three other foreign militants are thought to have been killed in US-led air strikes in Raqqa, Mohammed Emwazi, who has appeared in a number of beheading videos and become known as 'Jihadi John', is reported to have died in a drone strike on a vehicle he was traveling in.



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