A senior Kurdish official in Iraq says the peshmerga fighters battling Islamic State militants have managed to open up a corridor to Sinjar Mountain so that thousands from the Yazidi minority trapped there can flee.

Masrur Barzani says the Kurdish forces established the passageway Thursday, a day after launching the operation to retake the IS-held Sinjar.

Tens of thousands of Yazidis became trapped in the mountain in early August, when the IS extremists captured the towns of Sinjar and Zumar, prompting the exodus.

Many were eventually airlifted off the mountain or escorted to the Kurdish territory in northern Iraq but thousands more came later and remained stuck.

Yazidis follow an ancient religion with ties to Zoroastrianism.

The Kurdish operation to retake Sinjar is backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes.