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Kurds: Large portions of Iraqi town Sinjar seized from Islamic State

The town of Sinjar in northern Iraq represents an important stepping stone between Islamic State-held Mosul and the frontier bordering Syria.

By Fred Lambert
Kurds: Large portions of Iraqi town Sinjar seized from Islamic State
Volunteers from Kurdish peshmerga fighters take up position against the militants from the Islamic State near Mosul city, northern Iraq, August 10, 2014. Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani said on December 21, 2014 that Kurdish forces had taken a significant amount of the Iraqi town of Sinjar from IS forces. UPI/Mohammed al Jumaily | License Photo

SINJAR, Iraq, Dec. 21 (UPI) -- Kurdish peshmerga forces say they took large sections of the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar during the most recent advance backed by coalition airstrikes against militants of the Islamic State.

President of Iraqi Kurdistan, Massoud Barzani, announced the gains during a visit Sunday to nearby Mount Sinjar, the BBC reports.

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"Thanks to God we have opened and controlled all the roads and broken the siege imposed on Sinjar Mountain," Barzani said. "The liberation of the center of Sinjar town was not part of our plans, but we have managed to take control of a large area of it."

On Wednesday Iraqi peshmerga began a sizable offensive against IS forces around Mount Sinjar, where since the summer hundreds of Christian Yazidis have sought refuge from advancing IS forces but have lacked adequate food, water and medical care. The mountain was cut off, prompting airdrops of supplies by the U.S.-backed coalition, which later evolved into the air campaign against IS forces.

The town of Sinjar itself lies between Mosul and the frontier border region of Syria, making it an important linking point for IS forces.

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U.S. Central Command reported a record 45 coalition airstrikes conducted in support of last week's Kurdish operation, with 15 coalition aircraft destroying around 50 IS targets, including fighters, checkpoints and vehicles. At least two airstrikes destroyed IS vehicles, guard towers and storage containers near Sinjar.

"Now a corridor is open and hopefully the rest of the [Sinjar] region will be freed from Islamic State," Barzani said Thursday, noting that around 100 IS fighters had been killed in the operation.

In two days peshmerga forces captured around 270 miles of territory. Supply convoys are now able to reach the few hundred Yazidis remaining on Mount Sinjar.

The Kurdistan Region Security Council noted in a news release that the Mount Sinjar offensive is the largest and most successful anti-IS operation to date.

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