Raids kill, capture IS fighters

ERBIL, Iraq, April 18, (Agencies): A member of Islamic State’s war council and two aides were killed in northern Iraq on Monday by US and Kurdish commandos in the second helicopter raid in two days in the area by a US-led coalition, Kurdish security sources said. A statement by the Kurdish regional security council said Monday’s raid south of the Iraqi city of Mosul killed Suleiman Abd Shabib al-Jabouri, also known as Abu Saif.

As a member of the militant group’s war council, the statement said, he had been responsible for offensives in Makhmour, 80 km (50 miles) from Mosul, where an Iraqi army push launched last month has stalled. In a separate operation on Sunday, troops from a US-led coalition landed a helicopter north of Mosul and seized at least one Islamic State member from a vehicle, witnesses and Kurdish security sources said. The force quickly took off again with their captive, the sources told Reuters. “It all happened in less than 10 minutes,” said a witness of the raid in Badush district, around 20 km (12 miles) northwest of Mosul, the largest Iraqi city still in the hands of Islamic State.

A spokesman for the US coalition could not immediately be reached for comment on the latest raid. He previously declined to confirm or deny reports of the earlier raid. A news agency that supports Islamic State said the militants had thwarted the earlier raid in Badush.

There appears to be an increase in these sorts of operations since the United States announced last December it was deploying a new force of special operations troops to Iraq to conduct raids against Islamic State there and in neighbouring Syria. The militant group’s second-in-command and other senior leaders were likely killed last month by an air strike after a US special forces’ helicopter was fired on from the ground. US special forces operating with Kurdish commandos rescued 69 Iraqis in an October raid in the northern city of Hawija in which one US soldier was killed. The operations are aimed at escalating pressure on Islamic State after the Iraqi army won its first major victory over the insurgents last December in Ramadi. The authorities have said they want to retake Mosul this year but Iraqi officials privately question whether this is possible.

Meanwhile, the US has agreed to deploy more than 200 additional troops to Iraq and to send Apache helicopters for the first time into the fight against the Islamic State group in Iraq, the first major increase in US forces in nearly a year, US defense officials said Monday. The uptick in American fighting forces — and the decision to put them closer to the front lines — is designed to help Iraqi forces as they move to retake the key northern city of Mosul. Speaking to reporters Monday in Baghdad, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the decision to move US advisers to the Iraqi brigade and battalion level will put them “closer to the action,” but he said they will have security forces with them and the US will try to reduce the risks

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