Kurdish forces repel IS attack in Kirkuk

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Kurdish security forces on Monday fought back the Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq's oil-rich province of Kirkuk, while the Iraqi forces continued their battles against the extremist militants in the country's central province of Salahudin, security source said.

In Iraq's northern province of Kirkuk, the Kurdish security forces, known as Peshmerga, repelled an attack by the IS militants on two villages near the town Daqouq, some 40 km south of the provincial capital city of Kirkuk, leaving at least five Peshmerga members killed and 16 others wounded, a Kurdish security source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.

The extremist militants started their attack with suicide bombers and mortar barrage on the Peshmerga positions in the two villages and were followed with dozens of IS militants armed with machine guns and rocket propelled grenades, the source said without giving further details about the IS casualties.

The battles in Kirkuk came a day after the Peshmerga forces carried out an offensive in the area and managed to free several villages near Daqouq, the source added.

In Salahudin province, the security forces and allied Shiite and Sunni militias backed by Iraqi and U.S.-led coalition aircraft continued their fighting for the third successive day to free western part of the town of Baiji, after the troops managed on Saturday to free the eastern and the central parts of the town, a provincial security source anonymously told Xinhua.

Meanwhile, the troops continued their clearing operation in Iraq's largest oil refinery, just north of Baiji, as sporadic clashes are underway with individual IS fighters who still hiding in some buildings inside the refinery, the source said.

On Saturday, Jasim Jbara, head of the security committee of Salahudin provincial council, told Xinhua that the Iraqi forces "have completely liberated the vast oil refinery of Baiji after they drove out the IS militants."

The battles of the oil refinery and the nearby Baiji were part of a large-scale operation launched Wednesday aiming to recapture areas seized by IS militants in Salahudin, particularly after the militants progressed inside the huge oil facility on Tuesday.

Separately, Iraqi forces and Shiite militias, known as Hashid Shaabi, or Popular Mobilization, carried out clearing operations in the rural areas between Salahudin's provincial capital city of Tikrit, some 170 km north of Baghdad, and Samarra, about 50 km south of Tikrit, the source said.

The operations aimed at securing the main road between Baghdad and Tikrit, and preventing the IS militants from infiltrating to the liberated areas from Anbar province across the desert, the source added.

Since March 2, some 30,000 Iraqi troops and thousands of allied Shiite and Sunni militias have involved in Iraq's biggest offensive to recapture the northern part of Salahudin province, including Tikrit and other key towns and villages, from IS militants.

The security situation in Iraq has been drastically deteriorated since last June, when bloody clashes broke out between Iraqi security forces and the IS militants.

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