With assistance from U.S. airstrikes, Kurdish forces say they have made progress in an offensive to retake the Iraqi town of Sinjar from Islamic State militants. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) Backed by U.S. air strikes, Kurdish forces said they captured several villages in an offensive on Thursday to retake the Iraqi town of Sinjar from Islamic State militants who overran it more than a year ago. Islamic State's killing and enslaving of thousands of the northern town's Yazidi residents focused international attention on the group's violent campaign to impose its radical ideology and prompted Washington to launch its air offensive. Operation Free Sinjar aims to cordon off the town, take control of Islamic State supply routes and establish a buffer zone to protect the town from artillery, a statement from the Kurdish national security council said. Sinjar is both a symbolic and a strategic prize, sitting astride the main highway linking the cities of Mosul and Raqqa - Islamic State's bastions in Iraq and Syria. U.S.-led coalition air strikes pounded Islamic State-held areas in the town overnight, as around 7,500 Kurdish special forces, peshmerga and Yazidi fighters descended from the mountain that shares its name with the town towards the frontline in a military convoy. The security council said Kurdish forces had captured a village to the west of Sinjar and two others on the eastern outskirts. Reuters could not independently confirm this.