Iraqi forces, Peshmerga claim gains against ISIS; battle for Kobani continues

Story highlights

  • Official: Peshmerga clear booby traps from once ISIS-occupied Iraqi town
  • PM says Iraqi security forces have retaken Jurf al-Sakhar, south of Baghdad
  • U.S. military says it has carried out 22 airstrikes in Iraq since Friday
  • Kurdish fighters hold the Syrian town of Kobani against ISIS, await Peshmerga
Iraqi security forces have regained control of the area of Jurf al-Sakhar, a town south of Baghdad, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Saturday, as they battle to keep ISIS militants in check.
In a post on Facebook, al-Abadi saluted the efforts made by Iraqi forces to liberate the area and said they "have inflicted a strong blow to the terrorist organization ISIS."
Jurf al-Sakhar is on the outskirts of Hilla and is a mixed Sunni-Shiite area.
The town was also the site of intense fighting in June between Iraqi forces and ISIS over the control of a military facility, where an infantry brigade is based, Iraqi security officials said.
Farther north, Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces have liberated the northern Iraqi town of Zumar, west of the Mosul Dam, and its surroundings, according to the ruling party of the Kurdish Regional Government and Iraqi state TV.
"Zumar is controlled by the Peshmerga forces. ISIS completely evacuated it," Sheikh Ahmad Mohammad, a Peshmerga commander, told Kurdish news agency Rudaw.
Specialized teams subsequently moved into the town to defuse all rigged homes and booby traps that ISIS left behind, Peshmerga operations commander in Mosul Sa'eed Mamzayn told CNN.
Peshmerga forces also regained control of 10 villages around Zumar and killed 81 ISIS fighters, Heman Hawrami, head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party Foreign Relations Office, said via Twitter.
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Airstrikes pummel ISIS
The U.S. military said 10 coalition airstrikes had been carried out against ISIS forces Friday and Saturday west of the Mosul Dam, destroying five ISIS units, a building used by the group and several fighting positions.
Another coalition airstrike struck a large ISIS unit southeast of the Mosul Dam, according to the U.S. Central Command.
Altogether, 22 airstrikes have targeted the Sunni extremist group in Iraq since Friday.
ISIS took control of Zumar back in August when Peshmerga troops were forced to pull out after being surrounded by ISIS militants and being isolated from any support, Kurdistan Democratic Party regional official Ismat Rajab told CNN.
Kobani awaits Peshmerga reinforcements
News of the reported gains against ISIS in Iraq comes as Kurdish forces in Syria continue to battle ISIS for control of the Kurdish town of Kobani, known in Arabic as Ayn al-Arab.
Clashes could be heard in the border town Saturday, but the Kurdish defenders appear to be holding their ground against ISIS as the militants seek to regain territory.
There's been heavy fighting this week around Tal Shair, a strategic hill to the west of Kobani, as well as to the south and east of the city.
Turkey has said it will allow Kurdish Peshmerga forces from Iraq to pass through its territory into Syria to join the fight for Kobani, which lies on the Syrian-Turkish border.
Saleh Muslim, chair of the PYD, a Kurdish poitical party in northern Syria, told CNN that the Peshmerga and his party finalized their pact Friday night and fighters could enter Kobani Saturday evening or Sunday.
The precise timing is unclear and dependent on part on Turkish permission, he said, adding that the armed wing of the PYD may also influence the timing in Kobani, the site of fierce fighting.
As many as 150 fighters could be allowed in, but it's not yet clear exactly how many or when the reinforcements will arrive.
One fighter in Kobani told CNN they could come as soon as Saturday night.
There was one U.S. airstrike in Syria from Friday to Saturday, against an ISIS artillery piece near Kobani, U.S. Central Command said.