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Iraqi Kurdish Leader Visits Sinjar After IS Pushed Out


Kurdistan Iraqi regional government President Massoud Barzani arrives to support Kurdish forces as they head to battle Islamic State militants, on the summit of Mount Sinjar, in the town of Sinjar, Iraq, Dec. 21, 2014.

Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani visited Mount Sinjar after Kurdish peshmerga fighters broke a siege of the area by Islamic State fighters.

Barzani, president of Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, said peshmerga fighters have taken control of all roads leading to the mountain and have liberated the area, where thousands of persecuted Yazidis were trapped.

He said Kurdish fighters have been able to take over a majority of the city's districts, adding that Kurdish forces will not allow any Islamic State fighters to remain in areas the peshmerga fighters can reach.

Also during Barzani's visit, at least 15 Kurdish fighters wounded in clashes Sunday were brought from the front-lines to a makeshift clinic on the mountain.

City 'far from cleared'

Kurdish forces spokesman Jabbar Yawar said Sunday that Sinjar was "far from cleared," and fighters were facing resistance from pockets of Islamic State militants still inside the town.

Reuters news service also reported that as the Islamic State fighters fled, they were setting fire to civilian homes.

U.S.-led forces also attacked Islamic State targets on Sunday with 13 airstrikes in Iraq and three in Syria, using fighter, bomber and other aircraft, the U.S. military said.

Four of the Iraq strikes were near Sinjar in northern Iraq. Other Iraqi cities targeted included Tal Afar, Ramadi, Mosul and Baiji, according to the Combined Joint Task Force.

Syrian airstrikes targeted areas north of Aleppo, where the Islamic State group has been fighting rival jihadists, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

It was the first time that U.S.-led coalition aircraft had targeted Islamic State fighters in the Madajen area, where the group has been fighting al-Qaida loyalists of Al-Nusra Front and their allies, the human rights group said.

On Saturday, peshmerga forces - backed by U.S.-led airstrikes - swept across the northern side of Sinjar mountain and pushed southward toward Sinjar town and the besieged city of Tal Afar to the east.

A 32-truck aid convoy sent by Iraqi Kurds to the entrapped Yazidis also reached the mountain Saturday.

IS siege

Islamic State jihadists captured almost a third of Iraq and nearby Syria earlier this year, plunging the region into chaos.

The towns of Sinjar and Zumar fell to the extremist group in early August, forcing tens of thousands of Yazidis to flee to the mountain, where they were encircled.

Since then, Iraqi Kurds and Yazidi fighters have regained most of the ground they had lost in northern Iraq.

On Wednesday, an estimated 8,000 peshmerga fighters launched what their leaders described as the largest operation yet against the Islamic State jihadists.

The push is expected to force many Islamic State fighters westward into nearby Syria or eastward to the extremist-controlled Iraqi second city of Mosul.

Some material for this article came from Reuters, AP and AFP.