Iraqi soldiers backed by Shiite militiamen retook control Sunday of a Sunni town seized previously by Islamic terrorists, said an Iraqi official and state-run media, a rare victory for Iraqi security forces that have been battling to regain areas lost to the Islamic State.
The provincial official said that government forces entered Jurf al-Sakhar, which fell to terrorists from the Islamic State group in late July.
Col. Muthana Khalid, spokesman of the Babil provincial police, said the battle over the town left dozens of terrorists dead or wounded.
“Our soldiers raised the Iraqi flag over government offices and buildings in the town. It is another victory achieved against the terrorists,” Khalid added.
The town, 30 miles south of the capital, is part of a predominantly Sunni ribbon that runs just south of Baghdad.
The cleared town lies on a road usually taken by Shite pilgrims who will be heading in droves to the Shiite city of Karbala next week for a commemoration holiday.
Meanwhile, the U.S. military said Sunday it launched airstrikes north and west of Baghdad, hitting a small Islamic State group unit and destroying armed vehicles.
In Kobani. No Direct Combat
For Iraqi Kurds
Iraqi Kurdish forces will not engage in ground fighting in the Syrian town of Kobani but will provide artillery support for fellow Kurds fending off Islamic State terrorists there, a Kurdish spokesman said on Sunday.
Islamic State terrorists have been trying to capture Kobani for over a month, pressing on despite U.S.-led air strikes on their positions and the deaths of hundreds of their fighters.
The Kurds prepared to help their comrades in Syria as Iraqi government forces and Shi’ite militias advanced against the al-Qaida offshoot that wants to redraw the map of the Middle East.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Sunday it had confirmed that 815 people had been killed in the fighting for Kobani over the last 40 days — more than half of them Islamic State terrorists.
The Kurdish region’s parliament voted last week to deploy some of its peshmerga forces, which have been fighting their own battle against Islamic State in northern Iraq, to Syria.
“Primarily, it will be a back-up support with artillery and other weapons,” Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) spokesman Safeen Dizayee told Reuters. “It will not be combat troops as such, at this point anyway.”