Middle East

Islamic State crisis: Iraq air strikes 'halt IS advance'

Media captionThe BBC's Lyse Doucet meets Iraqi troops trying to protect the gates of Baghdad from Islamic State militants

Iraqi ground forces, backed by air strikes, appear to have halted advancing Islamic State (IS) militants in a town west of Baghdad.

The BBC's Lyse Doucet in the Iraqi capital says the air strikes followed clashes with IS militants, who have been making gains towards the capital.

Amariya al-Falluja, 40km (25 miles) from Baghdad, is a key strategic town.

It comes as a US-led coalition continues to carry out air strikes on IS targets in Syria and Iraq.

The area around Amariya al-Falluja is now said to be calm, but there is a standoff along the main road to Falluja to the north, which is controlled by IS, our correspondent says.

US aircraft also attacked other IS positions in Anbar province overnight, the Pentagon said.

IS threat 'underestimated'

Meanwhile, Turkish tanks have taken up positions on a hill along the border near the Syrian town of Kobane after several shells hit Turkish territory during clashes between IS militants and Kurdish fighters.

Media captionTurkish soldiers block the road up to the border with Syria
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Activists said IS fighters attacking the border town of Kobane made further gains on Monday

The BBC's Mark Lowen, who is on the border, observed two huge explosions in the area on Monday.

He also reported that Turkish police had stopped hundreds of Turkish Kurds from crossing into Syria to join the defence of Kobane.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the conflict in Syria, said IS fighters were now within 5km (3 miles) of Kobane, the closest they have come since launching an offensive this month.

The jihadists also fired at least 15 rockets at the town centre, killing at least one person, it added.

Overnight, there were US-led air strikes on IS-controlled towns and villages in northern and eastern Syria.

One raid on a grain silo in Manbij, in Aleppo province, left several civilians dead, the Syrian Observatory's director Rami Abdul Rahman reported.

"They killed only civilians there, workers at the site. There was no IS inside," he told the Associated Press.

The entrance to the Conoco gas plant, Syria's largest, was also reportedly hit. The facility itself was not thought to be damaged.

Media captionPresident Obama talks about whether IS was 'underestimated' (footage courtesy of '60 Minutes)

In a television interview on Sunday, President Barack Obama candidly admitted the US had "underestimated" the threat of IS.

He said a political solution - one that would arise out of an accommodation between Sunni and Shia populations - was key to defeating the jihadists.


Who are Islamic State (IS)?

Media captionIn 60 seconds: What does Islamic State want?
  • Formed out of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) in 2013, IS first captured Raqqa in eastern Syria
  • It captured broad swathes of Iraq in June, including Mosul, and declared a "caliphate" in areas it controls in Syria and Iraq
  • Pursuing an extreme form of Sunni Islam, IS has persecuted non-Muslims such as Yazidis and Christians, as well as Shia Muslims, whom it regards as heretics
  • Known for its brutal tactics, including beheadings of soldiers, Western journalists and aid workers
  • The CIA says the group could have as many as 31,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria

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