SINJAR, Iraq—This town in northern Iraq was home to more than 88,000 civilians in 2013. Today, there are none left living here.
The background: ISIS took over the town in August 2014. Most civilians fled, becoming refugees. ISIS militants rounded up those who remained, systematically murdering Yazidis, Christians, and Shiite Muslims in what the United States has called a genocide. The ages of the dead ranged from 1 to 70.
After two days of fighting in November 2015, Kurdish and Yazidi forces, backed by U.S. airstrikes, liberated Sinjar. Now, the town is a wasteland. The physical destruction is nearly total.
ISIS positions are only about 2 to 3 miles outside the town, and fighting is ongoing. Artillery and rocket attacks still occur daily, sometimes striking in the heart of the town. Suicide bomber attacks are also common.
Consequently, the approximately 5,000 Kurdish soldiers defending the Sinjar area are on guard. They are supported by airpower from Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S.-led international coalition combating ISIS.
Roughly 7,000 Kurdish peshmerga soldiers took part in liberating the Sinjar region, with about 1,500 dedicated to taking the town itself. They faced about 200 dug-in ISIS fighters.
The town was heavily booby-trapped, the peshmerga soldiers said. More than 100 buildings inside Sinjar were rigged with explosives set on trip wires, or remotely detonated improvised explosive devices, also known as IEDs.
About 15 peshmerga soldiers were killed and 30 injured due to the booby traps and IEDs. Peshmerga commanders said 35 ISIS militants died in the battle, with more bodies likely hidden within the rubble.
Nolan Peterson, a former special operations pilot and a combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, is a foreign correspondent for The Daily Signal. Copyright The Daily Signal. This article was originally published on The Daily Signal.