Truckloads of food, water head to Iraq’s Sinjar Mountain after ISIS pushed out
(CNN) — Food, water and other needed aid moved Saturday toward Yazidis stranded on northern Iraq’s Sinjar Mountain, which Kurdish Peshmerga forces have wrested from ISIS control after a months-long humanitarian drama.
Some 32 truckloads of supplies left Irbil for Sinjar Mountain early Saturday, two days after the Kurdish military claimed it “cleansed” the area of ISIS fighters with the help of coalition airstrikes.
Those Peshmerga forces aren’t done. A press release from the Kurdistan Region Security Council indicated these fighters launched a new phase of an offensive around 8 a.m. (midnight ET) south of Rabia to Sinjar Mountain.
Three hours later, the KRSC claimed its forces had taken “complete control of Mushrefa” but that they weren’t done.
“The objective is to surround and clear an area of approximately 2,100 square kilometers (810 square miles),” the Kurdish agency said.
Yazidis’ plight spurred international response
Last summer, Sinjar Mountain became a symbol of what was unfolding in Iraq — the rapid, brazen advance of Islamist militants seeking to establish a caliphate there and in Syria, and the humanitarian crises they caused.
The Yazidis, one of the world’s smallest and oldest monotheistic religious minority groups, call that part of northern Iraq home. They were slaughtered by the hundreds, according to Vian Dakhil, the only lawmaker representing the Yazidis in Iraq’s Parliament. Women in the group were “treated like cattle,” Kurdish Regional Government adviser Nazand Begikhani said. Many were enslaved, raped and sold by ISIS.
Others ran for their lives, with hundreds ending up in Sinjar Mountain — albeit without food, water or medical care in Iraq’s intense summer heat. The Yazidis’ plight contributed to the U.S.-led coalition’s decision first to airdrop supplies, then to help rescue them.
This combination of humanitarian and military efforts helped, as thousands of Yazidis fled on foot to Syria.
Still, a few hundred remained on Sinjar Mountain, and ISIS never really went away.
Coalition airstrikes support Kurdish fighters
The threat to those remaining prompted a fresh allied onslaught.
Tuesday night, coalition aircraft conducted 48 airstrikes near Sinjar — the heaviest concentration of such airstrikes to date, according to two US defense officials.
Masrour Barzani, chancellor of the KRSC, said Thursday this ground-and-air operation helped “open … a corridor from south of Zummar to the Mountain Sinjar,” giving direct access to those displaced on the mountain and in need of aid.
ISIS fighters, meanwhile, fled toward the Syrian border and ISIS strongholds such as Mosul and Tal Afar, the Kurdish agency said.
In its release Saturday, the KRSC said international strikes again supported the Peshmergas’ push Friday, in which they ousted ISIS fighters from several “key areas” north of the mountain.