Kurds free large part of Iraq's Sinjar town from IS

Kurds free large part of Iraq's Sinjar town from IS

Kurdish forces took over most of the town of Sinjar in the Nineveh province in northern Iraq Sunday, the Kurdish official website and a security source said.

A day earlier, the Kurdish forces gained foothold in the town after fierce clashes with the Islamic State (IS) militants.

Heavy gunfire and loud explosions continued during the day in Sinjar, as the Kurdish forces, known as the Peshmerga, fought to free the remaining pockets inside the town, some 100 km west of Mosul, the provincial capital of Nineveh, Xinhua reported, citing the official website of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) is a major Kurdish party led by Masoud Barzani.
Teams of explosive experts defused many landmines and roadside bombs, which the extremists planted in the town, the website said.

"The terrorists planted a (number) of landmines and bombs in the houses and the streets of the town, but immediately after we entered the town, we started cleaning (them)," the website quoted Qasim Shasho, a Peshmerga leader in the town, as saying.

Shasho also said that his troops found a mass grave in a village outside the town containing 70 to 80 bodies, most of which were of women and children.

A Kurdish security source told Xinhua that the Peshmerga forces managed to free several neighbourhoods in central Sinjar, including the government building, where the Kurdish fighters raised the flag of the Kurdistan region.

On Saturday, Kurdish forces advanced to free the town of Sinjar after retaking several villages from the Islamic State (IS) mlitants in Iraq's Nineveh province. 

The Peshmerga, backed by US-led coalition aircrafts, advanced from three directions in the area between the towns of Rabia and Sinjar before they entered Sinjar and seized a part of it.

The battles in Sinjar were part of a major offensive launched Wednesday when thousands of Peshmerga fighters retook control of the town of Zumar, located about 70 km northwest of Mosul, and then the nearby town of Sunoni Friday.

The main aim of the offensive was to seize the town of Sinjar after seizing the roads and villages leading to the town, which is home to the Iraqi minority of Yazidis who have been displaced several months ago.

The Yazidis comprise primarily of ethnic Kurds whose religion incorporates elements of many faiths. There are about 600,000 Yazidis left in Iraq with around 80 percent of them living in the towns of Sinjar and Bashika in the Nineveh province.

The Kurds had demanded the expansion of their sovereign region in northern Iraq to include the oil-rich province of Kirkuk and other areas in the Iraqi provinces of Nineveh, Salahudin and Diyala, but their request was fiercely opposed by the Iraqi government.

Earlier in June, the Peshmerga took control of disputed areas, including the northern city of Kirkuk, after the Iraqi security forces withdrew from their bases following the June 10 blitzkrieg of the Sunni militant groups, including the IS, in which they seized several territories in the predominantly Sunni provinces. 

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