A summary of the Sinjar operation: On the 12th to 13th of November, 7.500 Kurdish troops launched a long awaited assault on the city of Sinjar, which had been under Islamic State control since August last year. An estimated 700 Islamic State fighters were in Sinjar at that time. Around 300 where killed, many with the help from coalition warplanes that bombed the city for over a day straight, before the ground troops moved in. The remaining 400 either fled South or were captured. The villages around the city was taken on the first day, then the city itself on the second day. A number of Kurdish fighters were martyred, but the exact number is not made public for some reason.
There has also been some dispute over credit for winning the battle between the different Kurdish groups in the aftermath... but I'm not going to take part in that drama. There was also some looting, by folks who I will not name, which was not viewed very favorably. We resolved that.
My unit stayed in Sinjar until the 14th. We left with quite a number of weapons confiscated from the enemy, including a 120 mm mortar tube, a 14.5 mm heavy machinegun, several rocket launchers, light machineguns, rifles and ammunition. The city is currently being cleared for explosives and booby-traps, a job that will take weeks, if not months. The city is pretty devastated and I can't imagine life there will return to the normal anytime soon.
The media presence in Sinjar right after the liberation was massive. However, the news didn't really break through in the West because of the incidents in Paris the same day.
Part 1/2. Morning tea in Sinjar. I'm going to go through the operation day by day. But first, a big thanks to @jessica_schramm and @matsflesjaa for their donations. I couldn't afford helping out down here without the financial aid from you guys. If anyone else wants to help me out with a few bucks, please send me a message to find out how.
Day one of Operation 'The Fury of Melek Taus': I arrived in Erbil on the 8th, after my break in Norway. It took me a couple of days to gather my gear, weapons and arrange transportation back to the front. Once I was back on the 11th, I found out that general Wahed Kovle had left for Sinjar a couple of days earlier, with 20 of the guys, and that the operation would start the next day. Two of the remaining guys were going to Sinjar that morning, November 12, and I would join them.
We got picked up at 5 a.m. and as soon as I saw our ride, I got a bad feeling. The car was a wreck and I started doubting we would make it there in time... or at all. We had all kinds of problems underway, the car being just one of them, and we didn't reach Mount Sinjar before 11 a.m.. The operation had started three hours earlier, with hundreds of military vehicles pouring down the mountain to perform a three-pronged attack on the villages around the city, while coalition warplanes were providing air support.
We started the decent down the mountain in our old Opel, amongst all the armoured vehicles, tanks and trucks. We were forced to leave our vehicle and driver halfway down, as the terrain got too difficult, and we continued on foot with all our gear and backpacks. We came to the intersection below the mountain where the forces were splitting into three, West, South and East.
We had no idea which way our unit had gone, as we couldn't reach any of them on their cell phones. We asked someone for help, and he were sure they had seen the general go South. We chose the Southern route and, after walking for a while, we met a special forces unit from Duhok. We asked if they had seen the general go this way...
Day two of Operation 'The Fury of Melek Taus': The villages West, North and East of the city of Sinjar were taken during the first day. The city itself was next on the list. My unit, which was comprised of about 24 guys and led by Peshmerga General Wahed Kovle, drove up to the new front outside the city in the morning.
The guys manning the frontline hadn't seen any movement inside the city, so we didn't know what to expect. We approached the city on foot, marching along a highway, the first unit from the West as far as I could tell, with units from the PKK and the YPG right behind us. Halfway there, we searched an abandoned truck at the roadside and found a wounded Islamic State fighter. He was in a pretty bad shape, his face and arms burned black as coal.
Me and my new friend from the Islamic State:
He told us he had tried to escape the city last night in a car, with two of his friends, when their car got hit by a rocket. They had then hidden in the truck, but his two friends had run away when they saw us approaching. Some of our guys ran in the direction they had gone, but didn't find them. The general ordered someone to take the prisoner back, give him water and make sure he got medical treatment, and that no one was to put a finger on him.
We continued our advance and before we knew it, we were inside the city without facing any resistance. It turned out the remaining jihadists had escaped the city to a town 30 km south of Sinjar. Before we knew it, the city was swarming with celebrating kurdish forces and media, but our general decided to head South, hoping to catch some of the running rats. #pdk #peshmerga
Continuing the story: We drove off in our pickup trucks and passed the point that was later to be the Southern front of Sinjar. We stopped at a village that looked abandoned and decided to set up a checkpoint and search the village. We entered the first houses and went from room to room, but didn't find anyone.
At about the same time, a few villagers showed up and told us the Islamic State fighters had passed the village from Sinjar last night, and that there were only civilians here, muslim kurds. We told them they could come out from their hiding places, and they did.
Once they saw we were Peshmerga and not Yezidi militias, whom they fear will retaliate against them for what the Islamic State did to their people, they welcomed us as liberators. The villagers flocked around us, cheering for the Peshmerga and the general, kissing us and shaking our hands. The older men were actually crying of relief and we were served tea and bread.
We were given the names of some villagers that had either collaborated with, or joined the Islamic State and we drove around in the village hunting them down. We arrested three guys in total and took them to an abandoned house for questioning. They got treated pretty decently, except for the guy in the photo... he had an attitude that some of the guys had to beat out of him.
We said goodbye to the villagers and went back to Sinjar with the prisoners. We didn't see any action that day, which was a big disappointment for me personally... but we did good. We caught four Islamic State members and the liberation of Sinjar is a major defeat for ISIS and the beginning of their end. After Ramadi, Tal Afar and Hawija are taken back from the Islamic State, Mosul will be next, and I'll do my best to be there as well.
The author is a former Norwegian solider who served in Afghanistan. He now fights against ISIS as a member of the Peshmerga Duhok Anti-Terror Unit. You can find him on Instagram @Peshmerganor