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Kurds Declare Victory In Taking Iraqi Town Of 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 in a joint operation with coalition forces.
Bram Janssen

A force of some 7,000 Kurds says it 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 in support of the offensive.

"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 [of Raqqa]," 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," she says.

Made up of fighters from both the Kurdish peshmerga and from 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 Nechirvan Barzani of Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish area called it a liberation, and particularly congratulated minority Yazidis."

On Thursday, 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 over 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 has cost $5 billion.

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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