Islamic State takes town of Sinjar from Kurdish forces in northern Iraq

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 August, 2014, 3:48am
UPDATED : Monday, 04 August, 2014, 8:07pm


Jihadists raised their black flag in Iraq's northern town of Sinjar yesterday in a second straight day of advances against Kurdish forces, sparking mass displacement the UN called a humanitarian tragedy.

The capture of Sinjar by militant opposition force Islamic State has raised fears for minority groups that have found refuge there and further blurs the border between the Syrian and Iraqi parts of the "caliphate" which the organisation declared in June.

The town is between the Syrian border and Iraq's second city of Mosul, which has been the Islamic State's hub since it launched a major onslaught on June 9.

"The peshmerga [Kurdish forces] have withdrawn to mountain areas and are getting reinforcements," a high-ranking Kurdish source said.

Sinjar had sheltered thousands of people who were displaced by the Islamic State offensive in June.

"A humanitarian tragedy is unfolding in Sinjar," the top UN envoy in Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, said.

The capture of Sinjar prompted up to 200,000 people to flee, many into the neighbouring mountains.

The push on Sinjar came a day after the jihadists seized control of Zumar, another town to the northeast, which had also been under peshmerga control. The Sunni Muslim militants also seized two nearby small oilfields, with a combined capacity of 20,000 barrels a day.

After thousands of Iraqi soldiers fled the offensive, Shiite militias and Kurdish fighters have been seen as a critical line of defence against militants. But the latest battles have called into question the effectiveness of the Kurdish fighters.

Additional reporting by Reuters