Peshmerga forces have captured eight villages surrounding Zumar and are fighting for control of the town itself.
ZUMAR/ERBIL - Peshmerga control most of Zumar, a strategic town on a highway connecting Islamic State (ISIS) territory in Syria to their largest city, Mosul, Peshmerga sources told Rudaw.
They said the Kurdish soldiers had taken 13 villages surrounding Zumar and entered the town, where they are locked in battle with Islamic State fighters. These include Jaziri, Sinana Jadid, Boti, Grikafir, Girber, Kani Shirin, and Girbakir were all under full Peshmerga control, the sources said.
Hemin Hawrami, head of Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) foreign relations, wrote on Twitter that around 80 ISIS fighters were killed in the offensive as of 12pm.
US-led coalition airplanes bombed several targets last night to pave the way for the Peshmerga advance, which began early this morning. Planes could be heard flying above the city on Saturday morning before strikes resumed around 11am.
Zumar, which lays just west of the Mosul Dam, has changed hands several times. Islamic State forces captured Zumar from Peshmerga forces in early August, but the city was temporarily recaptured by the Iraqi Kurdish troops on September 1st. It last fell to ISIS in mid-October following a Kurdish retreat from the area.
When Peshmerga and Syrian Kurdish forces recaptured Rabia, a town laying on the Syrian-Iraqi border, in early October they began a push to cut off several key ISIS transit routes for fighters, supplies, and financing for their Iraqi operations.
Capturing Zumar is a part of this wider strategy, and it would also allow Peshmerga fighters to attack Shingal and Tal Afar, other important ISIS possessions along transit routes from its strongholds in Syria to Mosul.
If Peshmerga succeed in taking these towns, it would open the way to Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city and the biggest ISIS prize so far.
This article has been updated at 14:28 25/10/14 to reflect the current number of towns controlled by Peshmerga.