Strategic importance of Sinjar
Sinjar town is strategically important to ISIS because of its geographical location on the border with Syria. This helps the group to maintain a cross-border territory for their so-called Islamic caliphate, whose establishment was declared in June 2014.
Yazidis in Sinjar
- Sinjar town is in Nineveh Province of Iraq. Previously controlled by Kurdish troops, it was part of disputed territories to which both Iraqi government and regional Kurdish authorities laid claim.
- Sinjar is home to Yazidis, a Kurdish-speaking minority that adheres to a pre-Islamic faith derived, in part, from Zoroastrianism.
- Yazidis were targeted by the Sunni militants of ISIS, who believe they are devil worshippers.
Islamic militants capture Sinjar
- Early August, militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS or ISIL) captured the Iraqi town of Sinjar.
- Almost 200,000 people, mostly Yazidis along with Shia and some Kurds, were forced to flee their homes.
- The seize followed the IS takeover of the town of Zumar and two nearby oil fields from Kurdish Peshmerga forces.
When the town fell to ISIS, tens of thousands of Yazidis were trapped after fleeing up Mount Sinjar, without food or water. Further many were captured by the militants, resulting in the massacre of hundreds of men and the selling into slavery of women and children.
U.S. air strikes
- The ISIS attack on Sinjar was one of the reasons why US began air strikes against ISIS positions in Iraq.
- On 8 August 2014, US airstrikes were launched in the Erbil area, 180 km east of Sinjar.
- The first airstrikes in the Mount Sinjar area were reported as of 9 August 2014, when US launched four strikes on Mount Sinjar.
The December 2014 offensive
In December 2014, Kurdish forces drove Islamic State militants from north of Sinjar mountain, a strip some 60 km long, but the insurgents still maintain control of the southern side where the town is located. The peshmerga currently control about 20% of the Sinjar town.
Kurds launch battle to retake Sinjar from ISIS
- Backed by US-led coalition air strikes, Iraqi Kurdish forces launched an offensive to retake Sinjar, a strategic town near the Syrian border, from ISIS.
- The campaign is led by Kurdish Peshmerga forces in alliance with Yazidi fighters known as the Sinjar Resistance Units and Kurdish PKK guerrillas.
- Recapturing Sinjar would effectively cut off the supply line between ISIS strongholds of Raqqa and Mosul.