BAGHDAD: Kurdish fighters have seized the centre of the strategic Iraqi town of Sinjar from ISIS fighters, according to witnesses.
The Associated Press said peshmerga fighters had raised a Kurdish flag after defeating militants from ISIS – also known as ISIL – in the centre of town on Friday morning, and reported celebratory gunfire.
“ISIL defeated and on the run,” the Kurdistan regional security council said in a tweet.
Reuters reported gunfire from inside the town, which is in Mosul province, and quoted a witness as saying fighters had filed down the hill overlooking the town from the north, some with rocket-propelled grenades on their shoulders.
Soon afterwards a video posted on Twitter purported to show Yazidi soldiers taking down ISIS flags.
The reports follow the launch of a major Kurdish offensive, dubbed ‘Operation Free Sinjar’ and supported by US-led coalition airstrikes.
Peshmerga Major Ghazi Ali, who oversees one of the units involved in offensive, said thousands of Kurdish fighters entered the town from three directions Friday morning.
The fighters encountered minimal resistance during Friday’s push, he said.
He described the situation in the city as still dangerous, however, and warned that it was too soon to declare victory.
An earlier attempt to retake Sinjar, at the foot of Sinjar Mountain about 50km from the Syrian border, stalled in December and militants have since been reinforcing their ranks.
ISIS fighters overran Sinjar in August 2014, leading to the killing, enslavement and flight of thousands of people from the minority Yazidi community.
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