Iraq Kurds block key Daesh supply line in battle for Sinjar

By AFP – Nov 12,2015 –


Heavy smoke billows during an operation by Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by US-led strikes in the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar on Thursday, to retake the town from the Daesh group and cut a key supply line to Syria (AFP photo)

MOUNT Sinjar, Iraq — Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by US-led strikes blocked a key Daesh supply line to Syria Thursday as they fought to retake the town of Sinjar from the militants.

A permanent cut in the supply line would hamper Daesh’s ability to move fighters and supplies between northern Iraq and Syria, two countries where the jihadists hold significant territory and have declared a “caliphate”.

And retaking Sinjar — where Daesh carried out a brutal campaign of killings, enslavement and rape against the Yazidi minority, members of which are now taking part in the battle for the town — would also be an important symbolic victory.

Kurdish “peshmerga units successfully established blocking positions along Highway 47 and began clearing Sinjar”, the US-led coalition against Daseh said in a statement, referring to the main route linking the jihadists’ Iraqi hub of Mosul to Syria.

And the autonomous Kurdish region’s security council (KRSC) also said the highway had been cut, and that multiple villages near Sinjar were retaken.

“The attack began at 7:00am (0400 GMT), and the peshmerga forces advanced on several axes to liberate the centre of the Sinjar district,” Major General Ezzeddine Saadun told AFP.

Huge columns of smoke rose over Sinjar as coalition strikes and Kurdish shelling targeted positions for Daesh in the town.

Up to 7,500 Kurdish fighters are to take part in the operation, which aims to retake Sinjar “and establish a significant buffer zone to protect the [town] and its inhabitants from incoming artillery”, the KRSC said.

“Coalition warplanes will provide close air support to peshmerga forces throughout the operation,” it said.

‘Critical resupply route’ 

The coalition carried out 24 strikes against Daesh in the Sinjar area on Wednesday and eight more across the border in Syria’s Al Hol area.

The forces fighting for Sinjar face an estimated 300 to 400 jihadists in the town, Captain Chance McCraw, a US military intelligence officer, told journalists in Baghdad.

But it is not just the jihadist fighters they will have to contend with: Daesh has had more than a year to build up networks of bombs, berms and other obstacles in Sinjar.

“This is part of the isolation of Mosul,” Iraq’s second city, Colonel Steve Warren, spokesman for the international operation against Daesh, said of the battle for Sinjar.

“Sinjar sits astride Highway 47, which is a key and critical resupply route” for Daesh, Warren said in Baghdad.

“By seizing Sinjar, we’ll be able to cut that line of communication, which we believe will constrict [Daesh’s] ability to resupply themselves, and is a critical first step in the eventual liberation of Mosul.”

The fact that the Sinjar operation comes at the same time as others against Daesh in Iraq and Syria also increases pressure on the group.

“It paralyses the enemy, right — he’s gotta make very tough decisions now on who does he reinforce,” Warren said.

In conjunction with the Sinjar operation, fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces group are battling Daesh across the border in Al Hol area.

And Syrian regime forces broke a year-long Daesh siege of a military air base in the country’s north on Tuesday with backing from Russian air strikes.

‘We will definitely return’

After seizing Mosul and driving south toward Baghdad in a lightning offensive in June 2014, Daesh again turned its attention to northern Iraq, pushing Kurdish forces back toward their regional capital Erbil.

Daesh overran the Sinjar area in August 2014, attacking the Kurdish-speaking Yazidis in what the United Nations has described as a possible genocide.

Thousands of Yazidis fled to Mount Sinjar, which overlooks the town, and were trapped there by Daesh, and aiding them was one of Washington’s main justifications for starting its air campaign against the jihadists last year.

Some Yazidis watched the fight for Sinjar unfold from the mountain where members of their community were earlier besieged.

“I came with two of my children to Mount Sinjar to watch the battle,” said Burjis Saleh, 60, who has been living in a camp for displaced people.

“I am very happy because the battle of liberation has begun, and we will definitely return to our city,” said Qassem Khudaida, a 34-year old who was wounded in the foot after volunteering to fight.

With support from international strikes, Kurdish forces have regained significant ground from Daesh, and have been positioned on Mount Sinjar at the edge of town for months.

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Categories: Asia, Iraq

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