Middle East

Kurdish forces free 7 villages in Iraq

Western-backed Kurdish fighters freed seven villages from the clasps of the Islamic State group in northern Iraq in recent days, the US-led coalition battling the jihadists.

But the extremists still control broad swathes of land in the war-torn country, where the IS group has waged a terrifying offensive of forced religious conversions and beheadings.

Bolstered by coalition airstrikes, the Peshmerga fighters wrestled back more than 200 square kilometers (80 square miles) near the town of Tuz since August 26, the Combined Joint Task Force said.

Planes and drones conducted a total of 25 strikes, helping the Kurdish forces in "liberating seven villages," a statement said.

Elsewhere in Iraq, the situation remains more static, a spokesman for the US military's Central Command (Centcom) said.

In Ramadi, capital of the key battleground province of Anbar, Iraqi forces continue to try and isolate the city, which fell into IS hands in May.

"It remains a challenging fight" said Centcom spokesman Colonel Patrick Ryder.

Meanwhile in the Baiji area north of Baghdad, where fierce fighting has lasted for months, Iraqi forces "continue to hold their ground" at an oil refinery that has been scene of much fighting.

Within the city of Baiji itself IS has taken "back some ground but they paid a very heavy price for it."

Overall, Iraqi forces "are dealing with some tough challenges in certain areas," Ryder said, but the IS group is under pressure to allocate its resources and "continues to lose fighters and leaders at a high rate."

On Thursday, two suicide attacks claimed by the Islamic State group killed two Iraqi generals in Anbar.

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