updated 4:12 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
(CNN) – Kurdish Pershmerga forces say they’ve recapturedterritory near Sinjar Mountain in northern Iraq from ISIS and “cleansed” the area of ISIS fighters.
“We have opened a corridor from south of Zummar to the Mountain Sinjar,” said Masrour Barzani, chancellor of the Kurdistan Region Security Council, on Thursday.
Kurdish military officials said coalition airstrikes were key in the success of their ground forces.
“ISIS is always making damage, killed the people, steal the stuff, kidnapping people, taking money from people. That’s what ISIS is doing, and that’s not Islam,” said Peshmerga fighter Khalid Suleymen Kolaoh, who was on the front line.
This past summer, the siege of Sinjar had forced Yazidis, one of Iraq’s smallest minorities, to flee the ISIS advance. They found refuge in the surrounding mountains but were trapped without food, water or medical care in the heat before being rescued.
The US military says it has conducted 1,300 airstrikes to slow down ISIS. In November, Airstrikes by killed two top-level and one mid-level leader ISIS, Including Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s Deputy and the emir of Mosul, a senior US official Military Told CNN.
“We’re not seeing the broad offensive movement we saw in May and June,” Gen. James Terry, commander of Operation Inherent Resolve, told reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday.
He said the military is seeing signs that ISIS is having a hard time communicating with its fighters and resupplying them. There’s also social media traffic out of Mosul that shows an “inability of their self-declared caliphate to govern population centers,” Terry said.
An array of names for the group
During the Pentagon briefing, Terry referred to ISIS as “Daesh” for the first time. It’s the Arabic term for the terror group.
“Our partners – at least the ones that I work with, ask us to use that because they feel that if you use ‘ISIL,’ you will legitimize a self-declared caliphate, and they feel pretty strongly that we should not be doing that, “Terry said.
ISIS, ISIL or the Islamic State?
Several names have been associated with the same group this year. CNN and some other news organizations have primarily maintained the use of ISIS (for Islamic State in Iraq and Syria). The US government has been using ISIL (for Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant). Earlier this year, the group declared it was calling itself simply the “Islamic State.”
Mass grave found
A mass grave with 230 bodies was discovered in Syria’s al-Keshkeyyi Desert near Deir Ezzor across the border from Iraq, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
They were members of the al-Shaitaat people and were killed by ISIS militants, the observatory said.
ISIS had fought for control of Deir Ezzor five months ago and many fled to the surrounding countryside, said Omar Abu Leila, a spokesman for the Free Syrian Army’s Eastern Front who is from Deir Ezzor.
He said ISIS told people they could return to their homes if they put down their weapons and followed the group’s orders.
Those who came back without weapons, and no ability to fight, thought that maybe their family members were arrested, but they found a mass grave instead. “It is obviously a warning to the returning residents,” Omar said.
The bodies were decomposing, and one father told Omar, “I can not even tell which is my son.”