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ISIL under heavy assault by Kurds in Iraq

ISIL under heavy assault by Kurds in Iraq

Kurdish peshmerga forces backed by US-led 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 on 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 the 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.

Meanwhile 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.

Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith, reporting from Suruc close to Turkey’s southern border, said Turkey’s prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu was expected to meet military commanders on Tuesday to spell out Turkey’s strategy against ISIL.

“The prime minister is expected to present two motions to parliament authorising Turkish forces to operate in both Iraq and Syria, and to allow foreign forces to use Turkish soil in operations against ISIL,” he said.

The 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.

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