Middle East

Iraqi forces hunt IS militants in Kirkuk

Iraqi forces have taken control of Kirkuk after Islamic State extremists mounted a major offensive, attacking several facilities including a power plant.

Iraqi forces are hunting for fighters of Islamic State in Kirkuk, a day after the militant group launched multiple attacks in the oil-rich city.

Government and Kurdish forces were carrying out a mop-up operation in several neighbourhoods in search for Islamic State fighters who might have been injured during clashes in the city, a security source says.

Other suicide militants blew themselves up while they were besieged by security forces, the source said on condition of anonymity.

Islamic State extremists on Friday mounted a major offensive in Kirkuk, attacking several facilities including a power plant in response to an ongoing onslaught by Iraqi forces to retake Mosul, the radical militia's key stronghold in the country.

"The security situation in Kirkuk is heading towards stability," a local police officer said. "Our forces are in full control of the city."

At least 47 Iraqi troops and 39 militants have been killed in the Kirkuk violence, according to a local security source. Kirkuk is located around 170km from Mosul, which has been under Islamic State's control since mid-2014.

Government forces, backed by Kurdish forces and a US-led air alliance, started a long-awaited campaign on Monday to drive Islamic State from Mosul, Iraq's second-biggest city.

Iraqi troops on Saturday mounted a major attack to recapture a mostly Christian town near Mosul from Islamic State, state television al-Iraqi reported.

The Ninth Armoured Division, backed by US-led warplanes, stormed the town of Hamdaniyah, around 20km southeast of Mosul, the broadcaster said.

The forces reached the centre of Hamdaniyah, also known as Qaraqosh, retook the town's main hospital and raised the Iraqi flag over it.

Islamic State seized Hamdaniyah in August 2014, forcing a mass exodus from the town.

US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter arrived in Baghdad on Saturday for a surprise visit to discuss progress in the Mosul campaign.

Carter was expected to meet Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who on Saturday called for unity against Islamic State.

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