Dec 31, 2014 9:33 AM

Kurds in new Islamic State group offensive in Iraq

The Associated Press

BAGHDAD (AP) Backed by U.S.-led airstrikes, Kurdish Iraqi forces said they launched a large-scale offensive Wednesday to push Islamic State group extremists from an area outside the militant-held northern city of Mosul.

The targeted area covers about 120 square kilometers (46 square miles) and is located between the towns of Gwer and Makhmour, Kurdish forces said in a statement. The two towns, both recaptured by peshmerga forces in August, are located northeast of Mosul and near the Kurdish capital of Irbil.

"The objective is to push the enemy farther away from both areas," the statement said.

The U.S. Central Command said Wednesday that the international coalition it leads had conducted seven airstrikes against militants' positions in Syria and three in Iraq, using fighter jets and drones.

Earlier this month, peshmerga fighters retook small villages around the militant-held Sinjar town, opening a corridor to help hundreds of Yazidi families atop nearby Mount Sinjar.

The Islamic State group, which has declared a self-styled caliphate, holds about a third of Iraq and neighboring Syria. Kurdish peshmerga fighters from Iraq also have deployed in small numbers to help Syrian Kurds battle Islamic State group fighters in the Syrian border town of Kobani.


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