Aided by the United States-led airstrikes, Iraqi Kurdish forces and thousands of armed Yazidi fighters launched an assault to reclaim Mount Sinjar and the foothill town of Sinjar from the Islamic State, reported the Associated Press. IS had captured the northern Iraqi territory last year and murdered, raped and enslaved thousands of Yazidis.

The Kurdish Regional Security Council said in a statement that around 7,500 Kurdish fighters were closing in on the mountain town from three fronts to cut off a strategic supply line used by the IS militants. The statement also said that the Kurds wish to establish a significant buffer zone to protect the city and its inhabitants from incoming artillery. “Coalition warplanes will provide close air support to peshmerga forces throughout the operation,” the statement added.

The US-led coalition had been carrying out airstrikes around Sinjar ahead of the offensive, with the strikes growing in intensity at dawn on Thursday. Being located at the foot of Sinjar Mountain, however, the town is not an easy target. One attempt by the Kurds to retake it was already stalled in December. The militants have also been reinforcing their ranks in anticipation of an assault.