Kurds launch offensive: Kurds ISIS Offensive
Published: November 13, 2015
Kurds launch offensive: Kurds ISIS Offensive, Sweeping down in hodgepodge convoys of trucks and buses, Kurdish forces and Yazidi fighters opened their offensive against Islamic State militants in northern Iraq on Thursday with a burst of initial success: The forces cut off the main highway the jihadists used as a supply line, and they moved in to begin fighting for the town of Sinjar.
The fall of that town to the Islamic State last year was the start of a wave of atrocities – the killing, enslavement and rape of thousands of people from the Yazidi religious minority – that led the Obama administration to step up its use of air power against the jihadists. And it was with heavy American airstrikes that the fight to retake Sinjar began early Thursday morning.
More than 7,000 fighters – mostly Kurdish forces, but also Yazidi fighters seeking revenge against the jihadists – raced toward an important supply road, Highway 47, coming from different directions to try to cut off as many as 700 Islamic State militants believed to be waiting in and around Sinjar, flanked by thick fields of improvised bombs.
Trying to achieve some element of surprise, the Kurdish commander of one of the assault’s main forks, Maj. Gen. Aziz Waisi, had directed some fighters to head to the south on a rugged and serpentine route over Mount Sinjar, following a dry river bed. After a breakfast of watery soup, under clear morning skies as American airstrikes softened the defenses ahead, his men set out.
The advance was stop and start, at times violently rugged, careening over steep pitches. Other times, the convoy halted completely, a long line of vehicles waiting as earth-moving equipment was brought in to reshape the rocky terrain ahead.
Later, one fighter who was keeping watch for Islamic State suicide attackers along the highway said his nervousness about a potential jihadist counterassault was nothing compared with the nightmare of the twisting drive down Mount Sinjar.
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