U.S.-led coalition forces bombed multiple targets controlled by the Islamic State group in Iraq, helping Iraqi Kurdish forces regain their hold on the key town of Zumar and several nearby villages Saturday, Reuters reported. Zumar is located west of the Mosul Dam on the road between the militant group’s strongholds in Syria and Iraq.
If the militant group formerly known as ISIS has indeed lost its grip on the town, it could put a crimp in one of its supply routes. Such a development could also leave Kurdish forces in a strategic position to advance on the militant-held town of Sinjar.
“Zumar is controlled by the Peshmarga forces. ISIS completely evacuated it," Sheikh Ahmad Mohammad, the leader of an elite Kurdish Peshmerga unit in Zumar, told Rudaw News. The coalition airstrikes targeted Zumar and the towns surrounding it before Kurdish forces began their operation, Reuters said.
Peshmerga forces first took 13 villages surrounding the town and then launched their offensive on ISIS, killing 81 militants in the process, according to a tweet posted by Hemin Hawrami, the head of foreign relations for the Kurdistan Democratic Party, or KDP:
— Hemin Hawrami (@heminhawrami) October 25, 2014
Islamic State group militants seized Zumar in August, but the town was briefly recaptured in early September. However, it fell under militant control again this month after Kurdish forces retreated from the area, Rudaw News reported.
Gaining control of Zumar is part and parcel of a wider Kurdish and coalition two-part strategy to poke holes in the militant group’s supply lines between Iraq and Syria and to retake Mosul, the largest and first ISIS stronghold in Iraq. Based in Zumar, Kurdish forces would be able to launch an offensive around Mount Sinjar, where about 10,000 people were still stranded on the mountain surrounded by Islamic State group forces as of Oct. 13, Rudaw News said.
On their way from Syria to Iraq, ISIS fighters, financing and supplies have passed through Zumar and the area around Sinjar to Mosul in recent months. If Kurdish forces were able to retake Sinjar, they would be in a much better position to launch an offensive on Mosul, which would deliver a serious blow to the Islamic State group.