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Kurds Declare Victory In Taking Sinjar From ISIS

Kurdish peshmerga fighters, seen in the center of this image, enter Sinjar on Friday, after taking the town from the self-proclaimed Islamic State group in a joint operation with coalition forces.
Bram Janssen AP
Kurdish peshmerga fighters, seen in the center of this image, enter Sinjar on Friday, after taking the town from the self-proclaimed Islamic State group in a joint operation with coalition forces.

A force of some 7,000 Kurds has wrested control of Sinjar from ISIS, ending in a few days an occupation that had lasted 15 months. The northern Iraqi town is a key junction in the ISIS supply line.

The breakthrough comes after at least 20 U.S. airstrikes targeted ISIS positions in Sinjar earlier this week.

"The two-day offensive to push ISIS out of Sinjar has also cut a key highway between the Iraqi city of Mosul and ISIS's Syrian stronghold," NPR's Alice Fordham reports from nearby Dohuk. "But Sinjar and nearby villages are largely depopulated — taking back Mosul, home to hundreds of thousands of civilians, is still a distant prospect."

Made up of fighters from both the Kurdish peshmerga and from members of the Yazidi religious minority that was forced to flee Sinjar under threat of genocide last year, the force will now have to deal with booby traps and mines that ISIS is assumed to have left in the town.

"The extremists still hold territory very nearby," Alice reports. "However, Prime Minister Neshirvan Barzani of Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish area called it a liberation and particularly congratulated minority Yazidis."

Yesterday, the U.S.-led group targeting ISIS, the Combined Joint Task Force — Operation Inherent Resolve, released a video showing "a representative sample" of the airstrikes that were carried out in northern Iraq in the past two weeks to support this week's offensive.

Earlier this month, the Pentagon announced that since it started "kinetic operations" against ISIS on Aug. 8, 2014, the operation have cost $5 billion.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.