Kurdish forces close in on IS strongholds

Kurdish forces close in on IS strongholds
Kurdish militants seized a IS dam and supply chain in Syria, while Iraqi-Kurds killed local commanders in northern Iraq, as anti-IS forces move in on the extremist group's strongholds.
3 min read
27 December, 2015
Kurdish and rebel forces in Syria have captured a key logistics route from IS [Getty]

Syrian Kurdish and rebel forces seized a key dam and Islamic State group supply chain on the Euphrates River, eastern Syria.

The capture of Tishreen Dam took place on Saturday night, and lies at an important strategic location connecting IS' northern and eastern territories in Syria. 

Syrian Democratic Forces also seized with seven villages around the river.

The battle left dozens of IS fighters dead and its capture is said to be significant as it lies on an important route between the north Syrian city of Aleppo and its self-declared "capital" Raqqa in the east.

Syrian Democratic Forces spokesman Talal Sello said that the joint Syrian Kurdish and Arab-rebel unit can now cross into IS-controlled territory along the river's western bank,

This brings the US-backed anti-IS force less than 30 kilometres (20 miles) from Manbij, an IS stronghold.

Meanwhile, Iraqi Kurdish forces carried out a commando operation in northern Iraq, capturing and killing several senior members of the Islamic State group. 

The operation involved helicopters and bore similarities with a joint raid elite Kurdish troops conducted in October with US special forces also near Hawijah, local and security sources said Saturday.

The raid took place overnight in the town of Riyadh, south east of IS-held Hawijah and south-west of Kurdish-controlled Kirkuk.

A fight erupted between the two sides which led to the death of several [IS] members and the arrest of another group of them.
- Sarhad Qadir, Iraqi police brigadier general, Kirkuk 

"The operation targeted a [IS] hideout," said Sarhad Qadir, a police brigadier general in Kirkuk district.

"A fight erupted between the two sides which led to the death of several [IS] members and the arrest of another group of them," he told AFP.

Qadir and other officials said a local IS leader called Hussein al-Assafi was among those killed in the operation.

Some sources said the raid was a joint operation with US commandos but the US-led anti-IS coalition's spokesman, Colonel Steve Warren, denied any involvement.

Rokan Mekhlef Jassem, a police captain from Hawijah, said nine IS members were detained and 12 killed.

Ibrahim al-Juburi, an official in the Hawijah mayor's office before the area was taken over by IS last year, also confirmed a raid on a extremist hideout.

He said Assafi was a member of the Islamic Army from 2003 to 2010 and then of the Ansar al-Sunna insurgent group.

He pledged allegiance when IS took over in June 2014 and was made a chief in Riyadh, Juburi said.

Iraqi forces, including fighters from the Popular Mobilisation paramilitary organisation and from the Kurdish peshmerga, have been slowly closing in on Hawijah in recent months.

Kurdish anti-terrorism forces and US special forces conducted a raid on 23 October during which 70 captives described as facing imminent execution were freed.

A US serviceman died of wounds sustained during the brazen operation, which seemed to mark a break from Washington's declared "no boots on the ground policy".

The US defence secretary, Ashton Carter, said the next day that he expected more such raids in the future.