Kurdish Peshmerga fighters have reported more gains against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group, a day after they broke a months-long siege around the Sinjar Mountains.
On Friday, the Peshmerga were said to be marching towards ISIL’s military base in Tal Afar west of Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul.
The Kurds said they had retaken a string of villages to open up the corridor to Mount Sinjar, where thousands of members of the Yazidi minority had been trapped since ISIL captured the area in August.
Colonel Umed Mohammed, the commander of a group of 300 Peshmerga fighters in the village of Kasr Reej, said on Friday that the corridor to Sinjar is “under control of Peshmerga forces and now people can travel back and forth”.
The village of Kasr Reej is less than 50km from Sinjar and only four kilometres from villages surrounding Mosul controlled by ISIL.
The Peshmerga, backed by US-led coalition air strikes, launched the operation to retake Sinjar on Wednesday.
On Friday, convoys of Peshmerga fighters returned to their bases to collect their new orders, while hundreds of fresh arrivals arrived from other fronts to join the advance on Sinjar, the Associated Press reported.
Thousands of Yazidis became trapped on the mountain in early August, when ISIL captured the towns of Sinjar and Zumar, prompting residents to flee. Many have since been airlifted from the mountain range.
ISIL captured large swaths of territory in western and northern Iraq in a blitz earlier this year, plunging the country into its worst crisis since US troops left at the end of 2011.