Baghdad/London/Beirut: At least 50 people were killed Tuesday in clashes and airstrikes against IS positions in Iraq, a security source said, even as the fight against the Sunni radical group continued in neighbouring Syria.
In Salahudin province, Iraqi security forces, backed by Shia militia, captured three villages in the southeastern town of Dujail, some 60 km north of Iraq’s capital Baghdad, after fierce battles with IS militants. At least seven militants were killed and five of their vehicles destroyed, a provincial security source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
Iraqi security forces continued attacks against IS positions during the day in and near the towns of Balad, Baiji, Samarra and Dhuluiyah, killing 13 militants and destroying equipment and several vehicles, the source said.
In one of the airstrikes, a prominent IS leader and two of his aides were killed when a helicopter gunship destroyed three vehicles with IS members on board in the militants-seized town of Baiji, some 200 km north of Baghdad, the source said, citing intelligence reports.
In the eastern province of Diyala, Iraqi security forces and Shia militia backed by aircraft carried out an operation in the rural areas near the village of Hunbus, some 110 km northeast of Baghdad. They killed 22 militants, including two group leaders, a provincial security source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
Separately, Mullah Eid, a prominent leader of the IS group, and three of his guards were killed in clashes with security forces and Shia militia in Qaraghul village on the northwestern edge of Diyala province, the source said, adding that a Shia militiaman was also killed and seven others wounded in the battle.
Meanwhile, in Syria, the Kurdish Popular Protection Units (YPG) battling the IS Tuesday said they have recaptured a strategically important hilltop west of the Syrian Kurdish city of Kobane on Syria’s border with Turkey.
The advances were made after a series of airstrikes by the US-led coalition, BBC reported.
The hill, Tall Shair, was captured by IS militants who have besieged the area for a month.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported Tuesday that warplanes of the US-led international coalition have struck several oil refineries under the control of IS in the Syrian province of Deir al-Zur bordering Iraq, according to Efe news sgency.
Four airstrikes set fire to the refineries located in the al-Mazra area near al-Mayadin city controlled by the jihadis.
The London-based NGO said that some of the targeted refineries were operated by civilians, not the IS.
In a related development, coalition aircraft attacked IS positions in Kobane.
The planes targeted the Kane Arabane neighbourhood along with other areas in the eastern part of the city. A cultural centre under the control of the jihadis and the vicinity of al-Horiya Square were also hit.
The coalition strikes are in support of Kurdish irregulars fighting the jihadis in bloody street battles which began when the IS first attacked Kobane almost a month ago.