Islamic State militants armed with assault rifles and explosives attacked targets in and around the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk early on Friday, in an assault that appeared aimed at diverting Iraqi security forces from a massive offensive against the IS-held city of Mosul.
This operation against the Islamic State in Mosul is the largest deployment of Iraqi forces since the 2003 US invasion.
Turkish air force jets joined in the air operation backing Iraqi forces and Kurdish Peshmerga to retake Iraq's second city of Mosul from jihadists, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Tuesday.
Home Secretary Theresa May raised the threat from “substantial” to “severe” — the second-highest level — in August because of the danger posed by Islamic State and al Qaeda fanatics.
It would also give a huge strategic victory to both the Iraqi Kurds and the central government in Baghdad, as the Kurdish fighters could then cut the highway from Syria to Mosul, a vital supply line for Islamic State.
It was the plight of those trapped on the mountain, together with Islamic State's advance towards the Kurdish capital Arbil, that prompted US President Barack Obama to order air strikes against Islamic State in Iraq in August.
The peshmerga said they recaptured eight villages on the way and killed about 80 Islamic State fighters in the initial phase of the offensive launched from Rabia on the Syria border and Zumar on the shores of Mosul dam lake.