Iraqi Kurdish forces have captured a strategic border crossing from Islamic State fighters in northern Iraq, as the militants were pounded by US-led air strikes.
Kurdish peshmerga fighters took control of several villages as well as of the Rabia border crossing with Syria in a battle that began before dawn.
There were in total three fronts in northern Iraq where Kurdish forces were battling the IS Sunni militants.
The Rabia border crossing is considered crucial because the ability to cross the frontier freely has been a major tactical advantage for Islamic State fighters on both sides.
Iraqi forces and Kurdish peshmerga fighters have recaptured Sunni villages that had been under IS control south of the Kurdish-held oil city of Kirkuk.
IS fighters had used positions in the villages to fire mortars at neighbouring Daquq, a town populated mainly by ethnic Turkmen Shi’ite Muslims.
Meanwhile, airstrikes struck IS targets near a besieged Kurdish town along Syria’s border with Turkey.
It was not immediately clear if Tuesday’s airstrikes succeeded in halting the militants’ advance on Kobani, also known as Ayn Arab.
Kobani has been under attack by the Islamic State group since mid-September. Despite the air campaign, the militants were able to advance toward the town over the past few days.
US-led forces have been bombing Islamic State targets in Iraq since August.
They expanded the campaign to Syria last week in an effort to defeat the fighters who have swept through Sunni areas of both countries, killing prisoners, chasing out Kurds and ordering Shi’ites and non-Muslims to convert or die.
Washington hopes the strikes, conducted with European allies in Iraq and with Arab air forces in Syria, will help government and Kurdish forces in Iraq and moderate Sunnis in Syria.
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