Iraq Kurds say repelled major IS offensive

ISIL, standing for Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, was for years insisted on by Barack Obama's administration, while ISIS, standing for Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, is more commonly used more in conversation (AFP Photo/MARWAN IBRAHIM)

Arbil (Iraq) (AFP) - Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces repelled a multi-pronged offensive by the Islamic State group in the northern province of Nineveh on Wednesday, officials said.

One of the targeted areas included a base housing Turkish soldiers that has been at the heart of a bitter dispute between Baghdad and Ankara.

Peshmerga forces repelled coordinated attacks by IS in Nawaran, Bashiqa, Tal Aswad, Khazr and Zardik, the Kurdistan Regional Security Council (KRSC) said.

"This was an attempt by (IS) to breach peshmerga defensive lines following significant losses in recent months," it said.

"A number of fronts, including Bashiqa and Nawaran and Khazr north and east of Mosul, were attacked by (IS) terrorists this evening," Jabbar Yawar, the secretary general of the ministry responsible for the peshmerga forces, told AFP.

The jihadists "used car bombs and mortars and rockets and after that launched attacks on peshmerga sites on all of these fronts", Yawar said.

The KRSC, which is headed by de facto regional president Massud Barzani's son Masrour, claimed that more than 70 IS members were killed in the attacks.

That claim could not be independently verified, and the statement provided no indication of possible peshmerga casualties.

Ankara announced earlier that four of its troops at the base were wounded in Wednesday shelling by IS.

Turkey, a close ally of Barzani, deployed troops earlier this month to a base in the Bashiqa area where it trains volunteers preparing to confront IS in the city of Mosul.

Ankara insists the deployment was a routine rotation, but Baghdad said it was unauthorised and a violation of its sovereignty.

The area has been under peshmerga control for some time but lies outside the official borders of the autonomous Kurdish region, inside Nineveh province of which Mosul is the capital.

Turkey said this week it had withdrawn an unspecified contingent from the base, but the Iraqi government responded by demanding a complete pullout.

Turkey is widely perceived in Iraq's Shiite majority as complicit with IS, and Shiite militias have advocated using force against Turkish troops should the diplomatic track fail.

One of the most powerful among them, Ketaeb Hezbollah, said on its TV channel Etejah that it was responsible for shelling the Turkish base near Bashiqa Wednesday.

The claim did not specify how the group might have achieved such range, given that the northernmost front in which federal and allied militias are deployed is more than 100 kilometres (60 miles) to the south.