Kurdish Iraqi fighters, backed by the US-led air campaign, launched an assault Thursday aiming to retake the strategic town of Sinjar, which the Islamic State overran last year in an onslaught that caused the flight of tens of thousands of Yazidis and first prompted the US to launch airstrikes against the militants.
A statement from the Kurdish Regional Security Council Thursday said some 7,500 peshmerga fighters are closing in on the mountain town from three fronts in an effort to take control of the town and cut off a strategic supply line used by the Islamic State militants. The statement also says the Kurds wish to establish “a significant buffer zone to protect the city and its inhabitants from incoming artillery.”
The major objective of the offensive is to cut off one of IS’s most active supply lines, Highway 47, which passes by Sinjar and indirectly links the militants’ two biggest strongholds – Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in northern Iraq – as a route for goods, weapons and fighters. Coalition-backed Kurdish fighters on both sides of the border are now working to retake parts of that corridor.