Kurdish fighters look on as smoke billows during an operation by Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by US-led strikes in the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar, in Mosul province, on Nov. 12, 2015. Retaking the town from the Islamic State cuts a key supply line for the group into Syria.
Credit: SAFIN HAMED

Iraqi Kurdish regional president Massud Barzani on Friday announced the "liberation" of the town of Sinjar in a major operation against the Islamic State jihadist group.

"I am here to announce the liberation of Sinjar," Barzani told a news conference near the northern town.

Speaking in Tunisia around the same time, US Secretary of State John Kerry said he was "absolutely confident" the town would be freed in the operation by Kurdish peshmerga backed by US-led air strikes and ground spotters.

The lightning assault, which also involved fighters from the Yazidi minority that IS has brutally targeted in the Sinjar area, began on Thursday morning.

More from GlobalPost: Captured by the Islamic State, these two Sinjar teens went through hell. Then they ran

Kurdish forces were able to cut Highway 47, one of IS's main supply routes to neighboring Syria, which runs past Sinjar, and entered the town the following day.

But Barzani's remarks also made clear the battle for Sinjar was likely to be followed by political conflict.

"Sinjar was liberated by the blood of the peshmerga and became part of Kurdistan," Barzani said.

But Baghdad, which has long opposed Kurdish leaders' ambitions to expand their autonomous region by incorporating a swathe of neighbouring historically Kurdish-majority territory, is unlikely to welcome the idea of Sinjar becoming part.

And non-peshmerga groups that have fought IS in the Sinjar area, including Yazidi groups and Syrian Kurdish fighters from the People's Protection Units, may resent Barzani's assertion of peshmerga primacy and control over the area.

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