The battle for Mosul has seen further fierce fighting as coalition forces push closer to ISIL’s last remaining stronghold in Iraq.
Kurdish Peshmerga forces launched a huge assault north-east of the city on Sunday, saying they had captured the town of Bashiqa.
Around 50 villages have now been liberated from ISIL control since Monday’s offensive began, Iraq’s army says.
The coalition claims to have advanced to within 5 km of Mosul at the closest point. But ISIL responded with several counter attacks, notably in Rutba and Kirkuk, in an apparent attempt aimed at diverting government forces away from Mosul.
The mayor of Rutba, a town in western Anbar province described the assault by so called Islamic State fighters as ‘‘fierce’‘and called on Baghdad to ‘‘save the situation’‘
There were also sporadic clashes reported in Kirkuk, just days after ISIL entered the city.
The major oil centre, which lies south-east of Mosul remains under curfew.
Earlier US Defence Secretary Ash Carter went to Irbil to review operations and meet Kurdish leader Massud Barzani. Washington has said it is prepared to offer additional military support for the fight if requested.
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