Pockets of resistance continue, though Peshmerga clearly have taken Sinjar, a CNN correspondent says
Coalition aircraft have conducted more than 250 airstrikes across northern Iraq in the last month
Kurdish forces liberated the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar from ISIS on Friday after just a two-day offensive, a Kurdish leader said, reversing the terror group’s takeover of a community where thousands were massacred and tens of thousands were forced to flee 15 months ago.
The Peshmerga – the Iraqi Kurdish military force – unfurled an enormous Kurdish flag over silos in Sinjar in a symbol of conquest, just the latest territory that Kurds have captured from ISIS in areas near the region they inhabit in Iraq, backed by air power from a U.S.-led coalition.
“Sinjar has been liberated by the Peshmerga,” said Masoud Barzani, leader of Iraq’s Kurdish autonomous region, as he stood in front of reporters on a plateau overlooking Sinjar on Friday afternoon.
Pockets of resistance remained, according to CNN senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh, who walked in the town with the Peshmerga in the afternoon. A bullet, apparently fired toward the Peshmerga, whizzed past the group at one point, prompting the Kurds to return fire.
“There are still people resisting,” Paton Walsh said, though the Kurds had effectively retaken Sinjar “without a doubt.”
Up to 7,500 Peshmerga troops, backed by coalition air power, appeared to quickly overwhelm ISIS fighters when the offensive began Thursday. Peshmerga commanders estimated that some 600 ISIS fighters were inside the town.
The town’s immediate value to its former residents is questionable, with nearly every building damaged, some apparently by coalition airstrikes.
But the capture of Sinjar – which is on a highway connecting ISIS’ territory in Syria to its largest conquered city, Mosul in Iraq – is a step toward dividing the “caliphate” that ISIS claims it has been establishing across portions of the two countries.
The Peshmerga, which protect Iraq’s Kurdish region in the country’s north and northeast, have been among the more effective forces opposing ISIS in Iraq. Barzani told reporters Friday that Sinjar is a step toward a future liberation of Mosul, which ISIS took in 2014.
“Without doubt, the liberation of Sinjar will have a large effect on the liberation of Mosul,” Barzani said of Iraq’s second-largest city.