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30 September 2014
US strikes help Peshmerga to advance against IS militants
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Iraqi Kurdish forces captured a strategic border crossing and several villages from Islamic State fighters in northern Iraq on Tuesday, scoring gains as the militants were pounded by heavy U.S.-led air strikes and the Iraqi army advanced from the south.

An Iraqi Kurdish political source said Kurdish peshmerga fighters took control of the Rabia border crossing with Syria in a battle that began before dawn.

"It's the most important strategic point for crossing. Once that's taken it's going to cut the supply route and make the operation to reach Sinjar easier," the source said, referring to a mountain further south where members of the Yazidi minority sect have been trapped by Islamic State fighters.

Twelve Islamic State fighters' bodies lay on the border at the crossing after the battle, said Hemin Hawrami head of the Kurdish Democratic Party's foreign relations department, on Twitter.

The ability to cross the frontier freely has been a major tactical advantage for Islamic State fighters on both sides. Fighters swept from Syria into northern Iraq in June and returned with heavy weapons seized from fleeing Iraqi government troops, which they have used to expand their territory in Syria.

U.S.-led forces have been bombing Islamic State targets in Iraq since August and expanded the campaign to Syria last week in an effort to defeat the fighters who have swept through Sunni areas of both countries, killing prisoners, chasing out Kurds and ordering Shi'ites and non-Muslims to convert or die.

In two complex, multi-sided civil wars, the Sunni fighters are battling against Shi'ite-backed government in both countries, rival Sunni groups in Syria and separate Kurdish forces on either side of the frontier.

Washington hopes the strikes, conducted with European allies in Iraq and with Arab air forces in Syria, will help government and Kurdish forces in Iraq and moderate Sunnis in Syria.

In Iraq, a coalition of Iraqi army, Shi'ite militia fighters and Kurdish troops known as peshmerga have been slowly recapturing Sunni villages that had been under Islamic State control south of the Kurdish-held oil city of Kirkuk.


Reuters

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