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Iraqi Kurds drive Islamic State out of villages

IRBIL, (Iraq): The Kurdish regional government in northern Iraq says it has driven the Islamic State group out of more than 140 sq kilometers (54 sq miles) of territory near the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and cleared part of a major highway.

A statement from the Kurdistan Region Security Council on Wednesday said Kurdish peshmerga fighters backed by US-led airstrikes pushed the militants beyond Ghara Heights and Mount Batiwa, south of Kirkuk, and secured a stretch of a highway which connects it to the central city of Samarra.

The IS group swept across northern Iraq in the summer of 2014 and currently holds roughly a third of Iraq and neighboring Syria. The Kurdish government says some militants were seen fleeing toward the contested town of Hawijah.

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