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Major Islamic State Attack Ends in Rout by Coalition Forces

For the first time in months Islamic State militants mounted a major attack in northern Iraq late Wednesday, but its forces were soundly repelled by Kurdish Peshmerga forces aided by U.S. and coalition air strikes.

According to U.S. defense officials, the ISIS assault struck multiple sites near the northern city of Mosul, but the jihadists were routed by a Peshmerga counterattack that lasted until 9:00 Thursday morning, leaving more than 200 Islamic State militants dead.

U.S., French, British and Canadian forces launched air strikes against the Islamists, while Kurdish troops fought on the ground. According to a U.S. military official, the air strikes took out 180 Islamic State fighters, while at least 20 more were killed by Kurdish ground forces.

The city of Mosul has been under Islamic State control since last year.

The coordinated Islamic State attack surprised Peshmerga positions in four different locations, using car bombs, machine guns, suicide bombers and armored bulldozers.

“This was the hardest punch ISIL had thrown since this summer, and the Peshmerga defeated them,” said Col Steve Warren, a senior US military spokesman in Iraq.

Warren said that Wednesday’s attacks had “achieved a tactical surprise,” but that in the end the Peshmerga fighters took the day. “The pesh got a little bit of a black eye, but they put the other guy in the hospital,” he said.

Among the sites attacked by ISIS was Bashiqa, a base where Turkish forces have been training Iraqi Kurds by Atheel al-Nujaifi, the former governor of Iraq’s Nineveh province. Nujaifi, who was at the camp at the time of the attack, said that he came under a 2.5-hour barrage of mortar fire. The Kurds lost two fighters and six more were wounded, and four Turkish trainers were injured as well.

In all, the Peshmerga lost about 18 fighters in the battle.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter met with Iraqi central government officials in Baghdad Wednesday, attempting to convince them to accept more American logistical assistance in the fight against Islamic State. The assistance would include Apache attack helicopters, combat advisers and more special operations forces.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has been slow to accept U.S. help, reportedly because he fears irritating Iranian-backed factions in his country who oppose a closer alliance with Washington.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday the 15-member UN Security Council unanimously approved a resolution aimed at striking the finances of the Islamic State, which are already precarious.

The resolution stipulates the freezing of assets, travel ban and arms embargo against anyone doing business with the Islamic State. The 28-page document, prepared jointly by the U.S. and Russia, calls on member countries to report measures being taken to prevent the Islamist group from amassing funds. It also seeks to eliminate the possibility of the jihadists using the international banking system.

Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome

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