ZUMAR, IRAQ – Kurdish peshmerga fighters have secured a route to Iraq’s Sinjar mountain, where hundreds of people had been trapped by Islamic State fighters, Masrour Barzani, head of the Iraqi Kurdish region’s national security council, said on Thursday.
“The peshmerga have managed to reach the mountain. A vast area has been liberated,” Barzani said, adding that 100 Islamic State fighters had been killed. “Now a corridor is open and hopefully the rest of the (Sinjar) region will be freed from Islamic State.”
The assault ended the months-long ordeal of hundreds of Iraq’s Yazidi religious minority, who had been trapped on the mountain since Islamic State stormed Sinjar and other Kurdish-controlled parts of northern Iraq in August.
“All those Yazidis that were trapped on the mountain are now free,” Barzani said.
The peshmerga had not yet begun to evacuate them, he added.
The road through Sinjar is an important supply route for Islamic State militants between Mosul and neighboring Syria.
Kurdish peshmerga soldiers began their offensive on Wednesday to break the jihadists’ siege of the mountain and the town of Sinjar.
The peshmerga fighters charged from Zumar, east of Sinjar, capturing back 700 sq. km over two days.
The Kurds have yet to take back the actual town of Sinjar, but the freeing of the Yazidis from the mountain is a symbolic victory for the Kurds after Islamic State victories over the Kurds’ peshmerga fighters this summer.
The August spectacle of Islamic State fighters racing toward Irbil and the pleas of Yazidis trapped on Sinjar mountain, with hundreds of others captured or killed, galvanized U.S. President Barack Obama to military action.
Since then, Kurdish peshmerga forces have regained most of the ground they lost to Islamic State in northern Iraq, but Sinjar’s awkward geography, out on a limb to the west, has made it difficult to penetrate.