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Kurdish Iraqi forces open corridor to Sinjar mountain for trapped Yazidis to escape

  • In this Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014 photo, Yazidis displaced by Islamic State group militants gather around a makeshift bread oven where they take shelter in a partially constructed building in Dohuk, northern Iraq. In August, the militant group captured the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar, near the Syrian border, sending tens of thousands of Yazidis fleeing for their lives. Months later, many from the minority religious sect are living in harsh conditions without electricity, heating or safe drinking water.(AP Photo/Seivan Selim)

    In this Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014 photo, Yazidis displaced by Islamic State group militants gather around a makeshift bread oven where they take shelter in a partially constructed building in Dohuk, northern Iraq. In August, the militant group captured the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar, near the Syrian border, sending tens of thousands of Yazidis fleeing for their lives. Months later, many from the minority religious sect are living in harsh conditions without electricity, heating or safe drinking water.(AP Photo/Seivan Selim)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014 photo, Yazidis displaced by Islamic State group militants share a meal as they take shelter in a partially constructed building in Dohuk, northern Iraq. In August, the militant group captured the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar, near the Syrian border, sending tens of thousands of Yazidis fleeing for their lives. Months later, many from the minority religious sect are living in harsh conditions without electricity, heating or safe drinking water. (AP Photo/Seivan Selim)

    In this Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014 photo, Yazidis displaced by Islamic State group militants share a meal as they take shelter in a partially constructed building in Dohuk, northern Iraq. In August, the militant group captured the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar, near the Syrian border, sending tens of thousands of Yazidis fleeing for their lives. Months later, many from the minority religious sect are living in harsh conditions without electricity, heating or safe drinking water. (AP Photo/Seivan Selim)  (The Associated Press)

  • Iraqi Kurdish forces survey a bridge rigged with explosives by Islamic State militants, as they inspect the area in Zumar, Iraq, Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces battling Islamic State militants managed on Thursday to open up a corridor to Sinjar Mountain so that thousands of people from the country's Yazidi minority who have been trapped there can flee, said a senior Kurdish official. 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. (AP Photo/Zana Ahmed)

    Iraqi Kurdish forces survey a bridge rigged with explosives by Islamic State militants, as they inspect the area in Zumar, Iraq, Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces battling Islamic State militants managed on Thursday to open up a corridor to Sinjar Mountain so that thousands of people from the country's Yazidi minority who have been trapped there can flee, said a senior Kurdish official. 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. (AP Photo/Zana Ahmed)  (The Associated Press)

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.