The self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) attempting to retake a town in northern Iraq held by Kurdish peshmerga forces have killed at least 30 Kurds, an Iraqi military spokesman said Sunday.
The battle for the town of Gwer demonstrates ISIS' ability to still launch offensives in Iraq, despite airstrikes by a U.S.-led coalition. And while an alliance of Iraqi troops, Kurdish fighters and Sunni and Shiite militiamen have made some gains; their advance remains tenuous at best.
The fighting began Saturday as the extremists approached Gwer, just outside of the northern city of Mosul, which ISIS group controls, said Halgurd Hekmat, a spokesman for Iraqi Kurdish forces in Irbil. Hekmat said he had no information about casualties suffered by the Islamic State group.
Backed by U.S.-led airstrikes, Kurdish forces retook Gwer in August after the Islamic State group's offensive saw it seize a wide swath of Iraq. Kurdish fighters from Iraq also have deployed in small numbers to help Syrian Kurds battle the group's fighters in the Syrian border town of Kobani.
Gwer sits near Irbil, the Kurdish regional capital. Retaking it would allow Islamic State group fighters a new base to potentially launch assaults targeting the city.
Earlier this month, peshmerga fighters also retook small villages around the militant-held town of Sinjar, opening a corridor to help hundreds of Yazidi families atop nearby Mount Sinjar.
The Islamic State group, which has declared a self-styled caliphate, holds about a third of Iraq and neighboring Syria.
On Saturday, the U.S. military said in a statement it carried out 12 strikes on the group in Syria and three strikes in Iraq. Eleven of the coalition airstrikes in Syria targeted ISIS positions around the border town of Kobani near Turkey.