Iraqi ground forces and US jets halt IS advance

Turkish army tanks take up position near the Syrian border yesterday in Suruc after three mortar shells hit the Turkish side. Picture: Getty

Turkish army tanks take up position near the Syrian border yesterday in Suruc after three mortar shells hit the Turkish side. Picture: Getty

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IRAQI ground forces, backed by air strikes, last night appeared to have halted advancing Islamic State (IS) militants in a town west of Baghdad.

Eye witnesses in the Iraqi capital said the air strikes followed clashes with IS militants, who have been advancing towards the capital.

It comes as a US-led coalition continued to carry out air strikes on IS targets in Syria and Iraq.

A group monitoring the war said yesterday that US-led air strikes hit grain silos and other targets in IS-controlled territory in northern and eastern Syria, killing civilians and militants.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the strikes hit mills and grain storage areas in the northern Syrian town of Manbij, in an area controlled by IS, killing at least two civilian workers.

Strikes on a building on a road leading out of the town also killed a number of IS fighters, said Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the Observatory, which gathers information from sources in Syria.

The US military said yesterday an American air strike on Sunday night targeted IS vehicles in a staging area adjacent to a grain storage facility near Manbij, and added it had no evidence so far of civilian casualties.

“We are aware of reports alleging civilian casualties, but have no evidence to corroborate these claims,” said ColonelPatrick Ryder, a spokesman at the US military’s Central Command.

Last night British Tornado jets returned to RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus after carrying out a fifth combat sortie over Iraq.

The two aircraft returned to RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus although there were “no reports of any weapons dropped.”

The first jets to take part in a mission against IS militants had carried out armed reconnaissance missions at the weekend.

The US has been bombing the terror organisation and other groups in Syria for a week with the help of Arab allies, and hitting targets in neighbouring Iraq since last month. European countries have joined the campaign in Iraq but not in Syria.

The US military said the facility targeted was used by IS as a logistics hub and vehicle staging area.

Manbij sits between Aleppo city in the west and the town of Kobani on the northern border with Turkey, which the jidhadists have been trying to capture from Kurdish forces, forcing tens of thousands of Syrian Kurds to flee over the frontier.

Syria’s army also carried out air raids in Aleppo province on Sunday night, targeting areas east of Aleppo city with barrel bombs and other projectiles, the Observatory said. The army also carried out air strikes in Hama in western Syria.

Forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have been battling Islamist fighters around Aleppo, which is held by a number of groups in Syria’s ferocious civil war.

In eastern Syria, US-led forces bombed a gas plant controlled by IS outside Deir al-Zor city, wounding several of the militant group’s fighters, the Observatory said.

The United States has said it wants strikes to target oil facilities held by IS to try to stem a source of revenues for the group.

The raid hit Kuniko gas plant, which feeds a power station in Homs that provides several provinces with electricity and powers oil field generators, the Observatory said. US-led warplanes also hit areas of Hasaka city in the north east and the outskirts of Raqqa city in the north, which is IS’s stronghold.

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