Iraqi Kurdish forces recapture northern Iraqi town of Sinjar

#IslamicState

Aided by US air strikes, Kurdish peshmerga forces entered the town from the north and took over the governor's office

Iraqi Kurdish fighters look on as smoke billows during an operation by Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by US-led strikes in the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar, in the northern Iraqi province of Mosul, on 12 November 2015 (AFP)
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Friday 13 November 2015 12:22 UTC
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Iraqi Kurdish forces have retaken the northern town of Sinjar on Friday in a major operation from the Islamic State militant group.

Masoud Barzani, the president of Iraqi Kurdistan, announced the news on Twitter as a liberation from the autonomous Kurdish peshmerga forces.

Peshmerga forces moved on foot into the town, where many houses and shops have been destroyed, and damaged cars abandoned in the street.

IS graffiti had been painted on some houses, and barrels apparently containing explosives had been left behind.

The major operation also involves fighters from the Yazidi minority that has been brutally targeted by IS, succeeded in cutting a key supply line through the town to neighbouring Syria on Thursday.

This will hamper IS's ability to move fighters, equipment and other supplies between the two countries.

The peshmerga troops also took control of the Sinjar governor's office.  

"At approximately 10:20am, peshmerga forces entered Sinjar town from four directions to clear remaining IS terrorists from the area," the Kurdish Regional Security Council said in a statement.

Anti-IS forces then deployed around the town and prepared to move in.

"By seizing Sinjar, we'll be able to cut that line of communication, which we believe will constrict [IS's] ability to resupply themselves, and is a critical first step in the eventual liberation of Mosul," said Colonel Steve Warren, spokesman for the international operation against IS.

The US-led coalition earlier said Kurdish "peshmerga units successfully established blocking positions along Highway 47 and began clearing Sinjar," referring to the main route linking IS's Iraqi hub of Mosul to Syria.

IS overran Sinjar in August last year, forcing thousands of Yazidis to flee to the mountains overlooking the town, where they were trapped by the militants.

The UN has described the attack as a possible genocide, and on Thursday the US Holocaust Memorial Museum echoed that claim in a report detailing allegations of rape, torture and murder by IS against the minority.

Aiding the Yazidis, whose unique faith Sunni Muslim group IS considers heretical, was one of Washington's main justifications for starting its air campaign against IS last year.

Various Kurdish militias on the town's edge have been fighting guerrilla battles for months against IS fighters in Sinjar.

The factions include the Turkey-based Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK), the Syria-based People's Protection Units - better known as the YPG - and Yazidi-led forces calling themselves the Sinjar Resistance.