Erbil, Asharq Al-Awsat—Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, backed by thousands of Yazidi volunteers, are preparing for a decisive battle to liberate Mount Sinjar from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a senior Kurdish official told Asharq Al-Awsat.
“Peshmerga forces and Yazidi volunteers, backed by [US-led] international coalition airstrikes, are ready to move on Mount Sinjar,” a Kurdish official overseeing Peshmerga fighters in the area, Mahama Khalil, told Asharq Al-Awsat.
ISIS militants took control of the Sinjar area in early August after fierce battles with the Kurdish Peshmerga forces. Thousands of Yazidi residents have fled the area, with hundreds falling victim to a string of gruesome killings and kidnappings by ISIS.
According to the official, the Peshmerga has reliable information that ISIS militants have begun to flee the area ahead of the upcoming military operation.
“I think the next few days will see Peshmerga mobilizing its forces towards Sinjar, with some heading to the northern district of Sanuni and others to the south,” he said.
Khalil also urged Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani “to mobilize Peshmerga forces towards Sinjar,” adding that thousands of Yazidi and Peshmerga fighters are waiting for Barzani to give the green light for the campaign to retake Sinjar.
Over the past few days Peshmerga forces have captured a strategic road near Sinjar that ISIS used as a key supply route from Syria.
In exclusive comments to Asharq Al-Awsat Peshmerga Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Jamal Mohamed said: “Plans to liberate areas from ISIS are subjected to a thorough study before they are implemented.”
As for Mount Sinjar, Bashika, in Nineveh province, and the outskirts of Mosul—all of which remain under ISIS control—the senior official said they will be “covered by the second stage of our anti-ISIS campaign.”
Meanwhile, a source from the Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs told Asharq Al-Awsat that around 70 percent of the buildings and streets of Jalula, an eastern town that Kurdish fighters recaptured from ISIS on Sunday, are booby-trapped.
At least 30 houses have been exploded so far during the clean-up operation being carried out by engineering units, Pehmerga spokesman Brig. Gen. Ahmed Latif told Asharq Al-Awsat.
“Jalula is completely destroyed, some of the houses and buildings have collapsed and the rest exploded after they were booby-trapped by ISIS militants,” the official said.
“ISIS militants booby-trapped 70 percent of the buildings in Jalula before they fled the town,” Brig. Gen. Latif added.
“Peshmerga engineering units began cleansing the city inch by inch from bombs and mines. Municipality teams will be building and repairing roads, bridges and water and electricity plants to prepare the town for receiving residents,” the senior military official said.