Kurdish peshmerga forces backed by US and British air attacks have pushed into territory held by ISIL in Iraq, recapturing several towns and villages that had recently fallen to the group.
The peshmerga began their assault early on Tuesday in the village of Basheer, which ISIL captured in June and has used as a base for operations against Kirkuk, a key oil town 15km to the north.
A senior peshmerga source told the AFP news agency that his forces, backed by US-led coalition jets, also attacked the town of Zumar, near the reservoir Mosul dam, Iraq’s largest.
They also went on the offensive north of the ISIL-controlled city Mosul, Iraq’s second largest.
Al Jazeera’s Monica Villamizar, reporting from Erbil in northern Iraq, said the Kurds had been boosted by air attacks on ISIL by the US-led coalition.
“Peshmerga fighters have been in stalemate with the ISIL in the past, but now this is changing. At least in two of these attacks, air strikes were also involved,” our correspondent said.
She said the strikes had emboldened peshmerga, who could previously not match the firepower of ISIL.
Halgord Hekmat, of the peshmerga, told AFP: “We have pushed ISIL from 30 positions, including in the Zumar and Rabia areas.”
He said the advances would aid efforts to retake Sinjar, a town further southwest which ISIL captured in early August, prompting tens of thousands of civilians, mostly from the Yazidi minority, to flee.
The US central command said on Tuesday that seven air attacks had destroyed a number of ISIL fighting positions and vehicles in northwest Iraq. The UK said its air force had attacked two ISIL positions to aid the Kurd fighters – the first such attacks in Iraq by the RAF.
|Syrian Kurds desperate as ISIL advances in Kobane|
In Syria, an ISIL offensive pushed to within kilometres of Kobane, a Kurdish town on the border with Turkey, as Turkish leaders prepared to discuss its role in the US-led coalition against the group.
The ISIL advance there has forced tens of thousands of Syrian Kurds to flee across the border, and prompted Turkey to station a company of tanks nearby after shells landed in its territory.
The Turkish government previously said it would submit motions to parliament authorising armed forces to take action in Iraq and Syria, so Ankara could join the US-led coalition against the ISIL fighters.
In a separate development, a wave of car bombings and other attacks mainly targeting Shia areas of Iraq killed at least 47 people on Tuesday, including more than 20 in the capital Baghdad, officials said.
No one claimed responsibility for the blasts. ISIL has claimed responsibility for similar previous attacks.