Baku-APA. Kurdish forces drove Islamic State militants back from the oil-rich city of Kirkuk in northern Iraq on Monday, in an attack which was backed by heavy air strikes from a U.S.-led coalition, APA reports quoting Reuters.
Speaking to a local television channel near the frontline, Kirkuk governor Najmaldin Karim, who was wearing a helmet, said the purpose of the offensive was to secure Kirkuk, which the Kurds have held since last summer.
Kurdish peshmerga fighters began shelling Islamic State positions at dawn before advancing along an approximately 30 km (20 mile) front southwest of the city, seizing several villages and gaining around five kilometers (three miles) in some places.
"This morning we launched an attack on three axes," Major-General Omar Saleh Hassan told Reuters by telephone from the frontlinee near Tel Ward. "Our advances are continuing."
He said his forces faced little resistance from Islamic State militants who are also fighting to hold the city of Tikrit around 110 km southwest of Kirkuk, as Iraqi forces close in.
Just north of Tikrit, home city of executed Sunni former president Saddam Hussein, Iraqi security forces and Shi’ite militia fighters began an offensive to regain control over the town of al-Alam.
Military commanders said some of the attacking force were ferried across from the west bank of the Tigris river, while others were approaching from other directions.
"We have confirmed information from inside al-Alam that a few Daesh fighters are still inside, mostly suiciders and this is why we attacked them from multiple directions in order not to give them time to catch their breath," al-Alam mayor Laith al-Jubouri said, referring to the fighters by their Arabic acronym.