BAGHDAD, Oct 17 — Iraqi forces said today that they had taken the Yazidi Kurdish town of Sinjar from Kurdish peshmerga forces as they pressed a campaign against Kurdish-held areas outside the autonomous region.
The advance comes after federal government troops and militia seized the governor’s office and key military bases and oil fields in the disputed province of Kirkuk, as tensions boiled over after the Kurds voted for independence last month.
“The Iraqi army and Popular Mobilisation Forces entered the town of Sinjar after the peshmerga withdrew without a fight,” said the Hashed al-Shaabi, a paramilitary force made up largely of Iran-trained Shiite militias.
The northwestern town is infamous as the site of one of the Islamic State group’s worst atrocities, when it killed thousands of Yazidi men and abducted thousands of women and girls as sex slaves in 2014.
Tens of thousands of civilians fled into the nearby mountains in appalling conditions, helping to trigger US intervention against the jihadists.
The Yazidis are Kurdish-speaking but follow their own non-Muslim faith that earned them the hatred of the Sunni Muslim extremists of IS.
Following the exodus of 2014, many Yazidis volunteered to fight against IS, either in their own militias or those sponsored by the Kurds or by the government.
The Hashed said that Yazidi fighters in its ranks had deployed in Sinjar.
The town was taken from IS by Kurdish forces in 2015.
Sinjar and Kirkuk form part of a swathe of historically Kurdish-majority territory that the Kurds want to incorporate in their autonomous region in the north against the wishes of Baghdad.
Several of them were taken over by the Kurds in 2014 when many units of the Iraqi army disintegrated in the face of the jihadists’ lightning advance through areas north and west of Baghdad. — AFP