Kurdish forces battle ISIS, blasts kill 47 in Baghdad

At least 47 people were killed after two car bombs exploded in two shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad

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Kurdish forces launched on Wednesday an offensive against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria militants near the Kurdish regional capital of Arbil in north Iraq, a senior Kurdish official told Reuters, as the Iraqi army claimed it had killed scores of the militants in the northern city of Mosul.

The violence in the north was mirrored in the capital Baghdad where a string of car bombs killed almost two dozen people and wounded scores more.

The Kurdish attack just 40 kilometers southwest of Arbil came after the Sunni militants inflicted a humiliating defeat on the Kurds on Sunday with a rapid advance through three towns, prompting Iraq's prime minister to order his air force for the first time to back the Kurdish forces.

“We have changed our tactics from being defensive to being offensive. Now we are clashing with the Islamic State in Makhmur," Reuters quoted Jabbar Yawar, secretary-general of the ministry in charge of the Peshmerga fighters, as saying.

The location of the clashes puts the Islamic State fighters closer than they have ever been to the Kurdish semi-autonomous region since they swept through northern Iraq almost unopposed in June.

Shortly after that lightning advance, thousands of U.S.-trained Iraqi soldiers fled. Kurdish fighters, who boast of their battles against Saddam Hussein's forces, stepped in as did Iranian-trained Shiite militias.

But ISIS gunmen's defeat of the Peshmerga has called into question their reputation as fearsome warriors.

ISIS poses the biggest threat to Iraq's security since the fall of dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003.

The group, which believes Shiites are infidels who deserve to be killed, has won the support of some Sunnis who don't agree with their ideology but share a fierce determination to topple Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Maliki, a Shiite, is seen as an authoritarian figure with a sectarian agenda.

Maliki's military spokesman said Wednesday that 60 people were killed by an Iraqi government air strike on a Sharia court set up by ISIS militants in a juvenile prison in Mosul.

The ISIS judge who ran the court was among those killed in the city, the spokesman said.

In Baghdad, car bombs exploded in crowded markets in several Shiite districts, killing 47 people, Reuters quoted police as saying.

A roadside bomb killed three Shiites who volunteered to fight the Islamic State on a road between the town of Samarra and Mosul, a police official said.

In Taji, 20 kilometers north of Baghdad, authorities found the bodies of six people who had been handcuffed and shot in the head and chest execution-style, medical sources said.

ISIS has declared a “caliphate” in swathes of Iraq and Syria that it controls and threatens to march on

Maliki has ordered his air force to help the Kurds in their fight against ISIS which seized an array of weapons including tanks and anti-aircraft guns from the Iraqi soldiers who fled in June.

(With Reuters)

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