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Kurdish forces make gains against Islamic State, take five towns in Iraq's north

Kurdish fighters took five villages south of Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan, including hotly contested towns such as Makhmour and al-Gweir, which have switched hands with the Islamic State several times.

By Fred Lambert
Kurdish forces make gains against Islamic State, take five towns in Iraq's north
An Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga prepares himself to go in the hills surrounding the Iraqi town of Chamchamal, in northern Iraq on March 27, 2003. Kurdish peshmerga have recently been one of the main fighting forces against the Islamic State in both Iraq and Syria. UPI/ Ali Khaligh/ File | License Photo

ERBIL, Iraq, Nov. 30 (UPI) -- Kurdish peshmerga fighters over the weekend claimed they took several villages from Islamic State forces in northern Iraq, while coalition airstrikes in a contested Syrian town reportedly killed dozens of Islamic State militants.

Since earlier this summer when Islamic State forces from Syria seized giant swaths of land in Iraq, militants from the group have been warring with Kurdish fighters, the Iraqi military and coalition airstrikes. Western forces led by the United States began bombing IS targets in August, and the Iraqi army and Kurds began to recapture territory lost in the summer blitz.

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Kurdish fighters recently seized five hotly contested villages nearly 30 miles south of Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. Two of the towns, Makhmour and al-Gweir, had already been seized by Kurds with the help of U.S. airstrikes in August, but the villages have changed hands between Kurdish forces and IS for months.

Meanwhile, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports coalition airstrikes and clashes with Syrian Kurdish fighters known as the YPG recently killed up to 50 IS fighters in the Syria-Turkey border town of Kobani.

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Known also by its Arab name of "Ayn al-ʿArab," Kobani has been a scene of heavy fighting between YPG and IS forces since mid-September.

Called "Operation Inherent Resolve," the campaign to destroy IS includes operations in both Iraq and Syria. Joining the U.S. in Iraqi airstrikes are Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Netherlands and the United Kingdom. In Syria, airstrikes are being conducted by the U.S., Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

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