Kurdish fighters are in control of central Sinjar after taking it from Islamic State, the Kurdistan security council says, Sky News reports. Fighters raised 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. “ISIL 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. Sky’s Sam Kiley joined the patrols in Sinjar and said IS “took a pounding”. He added that volunteers from the town’s Yezidi population, which had been slaughtered, raped, and enslaved when IS took it last year, joined the final push.
Kurdish fighters have been attempting to sever IS’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 travelling in.