" The Kurds are demanding the expansion of their sovereign region in northern Iraq to include the oil-rich province of Kirkuk and other areas in the Iraqi provinces of Nineveh, Salahudin and Diyala, but their request is being fiercely opposed by the Iraqi government."
Baghdad, Dec 20 - Kurdish security forces Saturday continued their advance to free the town of Sinjar after retaking several villages from the Islamic State (IS) radical group in Iraq's northern province of Nineveh, a Kurdish official website and a security source said.

The Kurdish forces, known as Peshmerga, backed by US-led coalition aircraft advanced in the early morning hours from three directions in the area between the towns of Rabia and Sinjar, about 100 km west of the provincial capital city of Mosul.

They managed to retake control of several villages and the main road near Sinjar, said the official website of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), a major Kurdish party led by regional president Masoud Barzani.

The Kurdish forces are controlling all the border areas with Syria between Rabia and Sinjar so far, including the nearby Sinjar mountain, and battles with the extremist militants are concentrated on the edges of Sinjar, the website said.

However, a Kurdish security source told Xinhua that the Peshmerga forces only entered a part of Sinjar after heavy clashes with the IS militants and raised the flag of Kurdistan region.

Heavy clashes in the town are underway, while some troops started a search operation to secure the area by defusing roadside bombs and clearing booby-trapped houses, the source said.

Saturday's battles are part of a major offensive launched Wednesday when thousands of Peshmerga fighters retook control of the town of Zumar, some 70 km northwest of Mosul, and then the nearby town of Sunoni Friday.

The main target of the offensive was to seize the town of Sinjar after seizing the roads and villages leading to the town, which is home to Iraq's minority Yazidi community who were displaced several months ago.

The Yazidi minority are primarily ethnic Kurds whose religion incorporates elements of many faiths. There are about 600,000 Yazidis left in Iraq with around 80 percent of them living in the towns of Sinjar and Bashika in the Nineveh province.

Sinjar, Zumar and Sunoni are parts of the disputed areas of mixed ethnicities of Kurds, Arabs, Turkmans and others.

The Kurds are demanding the expansion of their sovereign region in northern Iraq to include the oil-rich province of Kirkuk and other areas in the Iraqi provinces of Nineveh, Salahudin and Diyala, but their request is being fiercely opposed by the Iraqi government.

Earlier in June, the Peshmerga took control of the disputed areas, including the northern city of Kirkuk, after the Iraqi security forces withdrew from their bases following the June 10 blitzkrieg of the Sunni militant groups, including the IS group, when they seized several territories in the predominantly Sunni provinces.


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