Kurds launch offensive against ISIL in north Iraq

Kurds launch offensive against ISIL in north Iraq

ERBIL, Iraq - Reuters
Kurds launch offensive against ISIL in north Iraq

Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters stand in a military vehicle after they reportedly captured several villages from ISIL jihadists in the district of Daquq, south of the northern city of Kirkuk on September 11, 2015. AFP Photo

Kurdish forces attacked the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in northern Iraq on Sept.30 in the latest of several offensives aimed at driving the militants away from the oil-rich city of Kirkuk. 

The assault began in the early morning to capture the al-Gurra heights to the west of Kirkuk in the direction of the ISIL bastion of Hawijah, Kurdish military sources said. 

The Kurds took full control of Kirkuk last summer when Iraqi soldiers abandoned their bases in and around the city as ISIL militants overran around a third of the country. 

The peshmerga have been widening a buffer around the city in a series of offensives, clearing more than 530 square kilometres over the past six months, according to the region's security council. 

Apart from the gains around Kirkuk, the frontline between peshmerga and ISIL has hardly moved for months. 

ISIL has not been able to take ground from the peshmerga since the U.S.-led coalition started bombing the insurgents. 

The Kurds already control most of the territory they claim as their own, and have little incentive to push further into predominantly Arab towns and villages, except where they pose a direct threat to their region.