New Kurdish offensive targets Islamic State group
Baghdad: Iraqi Kurdish forces launched a new offensive today targeting Islamic State group extremists as a suicide bomber killed at least five people in the Kurds' regional capital.
The operation came as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said details haven't been finalized for a deal that would have his country train rebels to battle IS in Syria, where the militants also hold territory
A US-led coalition is targeting IS with airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, supporting Western-backed Syrian rebels, Kurdish fighters and the Iraqi military on the ground.
The strikes have helped halt the extremists' move to take the Syrian city of Kobani near the Turkish border, and enabled Iraqi forces to make key advances.
Yesterday, the Kurds captured six IS-controlled buildings in Kobani and confiscated a large amount of weapons and ammunition, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
In Iraq, the new offensive by Kurdish forces, known as the peshmerga, targeted areas in Diyala and Kirkuk provinces, said Jaber Yawer, a peshmerga spokesman. The IS extremists had seized the territory in their August offensive that saw them capture a third of Iraq.
In Diyala, the peshmerga worked with Iraqi security forces to retake the towns of Saadiya and Jalula, Yawer said.
In Kirkuk, Kurdish forces backed by coalition airstrikes launched attacks to retake territory near the town of Kharbaroot, located 35 kilometers (22 miles) west of the city of Kirkuk.
The offensive began as a suicide car bomber struck in the heart of Irbil, killing at least five people, officials said.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the midday attack in the capital of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region, though authorities suspected the Islamic State group.
Authorities also suspected IS in three Baghdad bombings that killed at least 10 people and wounded almost 30.
Turkey, while previously backing Syrian rebels fighting to topple President Bashar Assad, has been hesitant to aid the Kobani fight over its own fears about stoking Kurdish ambitions for an independent state.
Today, Erdogan said no deal had been finalized for Turkey to train rebels under the auspices of the U.S.-led operation against IS.
"If we only talk about train and equip, we would be lying to ourselves," Erdogan said, reiterating that overthrowing Assad must be a priority as well.
Retired Marine Gen. John Allen, the US envoy for the international coalition, held talks with Turkish officials in Ankara today but few details were released.
The IS group has declared a self-styled Islamic caliphate in areas under its control in Iraq and Syria, governing it according to its violent interpretation of Shariah law.