Shingal (K24) - Hundreds of Kurdish Peshmerga troops entered Shingal (Sinjar) from multiple directions on Friday morning and took complete control of the town and surrounding district from Islamic State group as anti-IS coalition aircraft flew low overhead in a seemingly celebratory gesture.
One of the K24 reporters embedded with Peshmerga units inside Shingal said mine clearance and anti-IED (Improvised Explosive Device) teams are in the lead trying to clear possible traps. Celebratory fire aside, he reported he could hear a few instances of remaining resistance and stated that there might be possibly several remaining IS militants hiding inside buildings.
Another K24 reporter embedded elsewhere in Shingal said IS militants have all withdrawn without a fight as coalition warplanes continue pounding the militants further south within the periphery of Shingal. He said there are no Peshmerga casualties so far, and the number of IS casualties—reported to be in the dozens-- is yet to be assessed. On Thursday US army spokesperson, Steve Warren told British Sky News that roughly 70 IS militants are thought to have been killed in clashes and intensive airstrikes.
Apart from securing the town, the other main objective of the "Free Sinjar" operation launched in the early hours of Thursday with 7,500 peshmerga soldiers is to create a buffer zone south of the town to protect it from future assaults, as declared by Kurdistan Region Security Council.
The ground offensive also aims to isolate the militant group in Mosul by denying it direct access to the eastern Syrian city of Raqqa, its de-facto capital. Kurdish forces took the first significant step towards that goal yesterday when they cut Highway 47 from both the East and Western sides of Shingal. Islamic State used this strategic international highway as the main route for its transportation of oil, weapons, goods, and fighters between Iraq and Syria.
In Washington, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said that coalition aircrafts conducted 36 airstrikes on November 11 and 12 in support of the “Free Sinjar” operation. He also said military advisers from the US and other coalition countries are currently on the ground assisting Peshmerga in the assessment of airstrike targets.
(Bextiyar Ezizi and Chekdar Jamal contributed to this report from Shingal)