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Iraq air force to back Kurds fighting Islamist extremists

world Updated: Aug 05, 2014 00:16 IST
Nuri al-Maliki

Iraqi prime minister Nuri al-Maliki ordered his air force for the first time to back Kurdish forces against Islamic State fighters after the Sunni militants made another dramatic push through the north, state television reported on Monday.

Kurdish peshmerga fighters, who cut their teeth fighting Saddam Hussein’s troops, were regarded as one of the few forces capable of standing up to the Sunni insurgents who faced almost no opposition from Maliki’s US-trained army during their lightning advance through the north in June.

Then on Sunday the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) militants inflicted a humiliating defeat on the Kurds with a rapid advance through three towns to reach the Mosul Dam, acquiring a fifth oil field to fund its operations along the way.

State television and witnesses said that the ISIS had seized Iraq’s biggest dam. Kurdish peshmerga officials said they have pushed militants from the dam area and were in control of it. This could not be immediately confirmed.

Meanwhile, there were reports that Iran’s elite Guards were said to be fighting in Iraq to push back the ISIS militants.

At least three members of the Guards have been killed in Iraq since mid-June, a clear sign that Shia power Iran has ramped up its military presence in Iraq to counter the threat of Sunni fighters from the Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot that seized much of northern Iraq since June.