Erbil (Iraq), Dec 19 (IANS/EFE) Kurdish Peshmerga forces, supported by US-led international coalition aircraft, recaptured Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq after breaking a siege by the Islamic State (IS) Sunni radical group, a Kurdish official said Friday.
Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) leader Mohiuddin Mezouari told Efe news agency that the Kurdish fighters scaled the mountain and opened a safe passage to evacuate civilians, though fighting continued with jihadis in the area.
As many as 52 IS militants were killed and scores of military vehicles were also destroyed, Mezouari said.
Last August, the IS conquest of the Mount Sinjar region and the fleeing of tens of thousands of members of the Yazidi religious minority galvanised the US into rushing weapons, military trainers and aircraft to Iraq to stem the jihadis’ advance.
Masrour Barzani, head of the Iraqi Kurdish region’s national security council, said in a press conference Thursday that Peshmerga forces had reached Mount Sinjar and the siege on the mountain was lifted.
The Peshmerga troops have taken control of the road that connects Sinjar with the province of Dohuk, in the Kurdistan region, opening a corridor to allow the besieged Yazidis to leave, Barzani said.
The Peshmerga advanced from Zumar, east of Sinjar, recapturing 270 square miles in just a few days, he added.
Barzani said the Peshmerga soldiers fought alone with no support from the Iraqi Army and did not have heavy weapons. The only outside support, he said, were airstikes on the IS carried out by the international coalition.
According to the UN, more than 500,000 Yazidis and members of other minority religions have fled northern Iraq since June and hundreds have been killed.