Kurds advance against ISIS in Iraq and Syria

Kurdish scouts reach heart of Sinjar town

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Iraqi Kurdish forces pressed on with a vast operation to wrest back swathes of land from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Iraq, including sending scouts into the town of Sinjar, Al Arabiya’s correspondent reported on Saturday.

Meanwhile in Syria, Kurdish forces also advanced into the embattled Syrian town of Kobane.

The scouts were dispatched into Mount Sinjar as Kurdish forces maintained control of surrounding areas, Al Arabiya’s correspondent in Erbil said.

ISIS fighters withdrew to the north of Mount Sinjar, losing control of swathes of territory, the correspondent said.

The developments come a day after a months-old siege on Mount Sinjar was broken.

AFP said Kurdish Peshmerga forces also launched another offensive from Rabia, on the Syria border, to further clear the area.

"Peshmerga forces launched a new offensive south of Rabia to Mount Sinjar" at 8:00 a.m. [0500 GMT], the Kurdistan Regional Security Council (KRSC) said in a statement, the agency reported.

The KRSC is headed by Masrour Barzani, who is the autonomous Iraqi Kurdish region's intelligence chief and also the son of Kurdish regional president Massud Barzani.

It said Peshmerga forces took complete control of a number of villages north of the vast mountain range, a 60-kilometer-long ridge in northwestern Iraq.

Fighters and civilians from the Kurdish Yazidi minority had been trapped atop the mountain since September.
The Kurdish statement said the aim of the operation, which began on Wednesday, was to reconquer territory covering around 2,100 square kilometers.

Barzani has described the operation, in which he said 8,000 Peshmerga are involved, as the biggest and most successful so far against ISIS jihadists.

There are other groups involved in the operation, such as the Syrian Kurdish YPG group which is also leading the battle in the town of Kobane, on Syria's border with Turkey.

Among the other outfits who have had a presence on the mountain or around it are the armed wing of Turkey's Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and a local Yazidi offshoot known as the YBS.

The YPG issued a statement on Friday saying they were moving south and taking villages on the Iraqi border back from ISIS to connect with PKK and YBS forces moving north.

Their aim is reopen the corridor that saw biblical scenes in August when tens of thousands of Yazidis fled after a first siege of the mountain in August.

The Kurdish advances in Iraq on Saturday coincided with parallel steps in Syria.

The Associated Press reported that Kurdish forces had advanced into the embattled Syrian town of Kobane following heavy clashes ISIS militants there.

Nawaf Khalil, a spokesman for the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, said Kurdish fighters advanced in six neighborhoods through the Syrian-Kurdish town.

He added that Kurdish fighters captured the Yarmouk school, southeast of Kobane where eight bodies of ISIS fighters were found.
Additionally, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the main Syrian Kurdish force known as the YPG killed several ISIS fighters.

ISIS began the Kobane offensive in mid-September, capturing parts of the town as well as dozens of nearby villages. Hundreds of fighters on both sides have been killed since.

Kurdish forces have gradually pushed the extremist group back in recent weeks with the help of U.S.-led coalition airstrikes.

(With Agencies)

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