Canadian warplanes tried to help blunt major ISIS offensive

OTTAWA -- Canadian warplanes took part in a major action in northern Iraq on Thursday as hundreds of extremists launched a major offensive against Kurdish forces in the region.

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Two CF-18s struck a fighting position belonging to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, northwest of occupied Mosul, the embattled country's second-largest city.

U.S. media reports say American, British and French jets also flew strikes as the multi-pronged offensive against the Kurds dragged on for over 17 hours.

Local media reports in Irbil claim Kurdish forces have repelled the coordinated assaults in five locations -- Nawaran, Bashiqa, Tel Aswad, Khazr and Zardik.

A statement from Kurdistan Regional Security Council said "car bombs and mortars and rockets" were used to open up each attack and they were followed up by Islamic State fighters.

In one area -- Nawaran -- extremists set off nine car bombs, according to local reports.

The size and scale of the offensive seems to have taken both the Kurds and the American-led coalition by surprise, especially at time when U.S. Defence Secretary Ash Carter was telling Kurdish media in Iribil that plans for the recapture of Mosul were proceeding.

He painted an optimistic picture, saying the intense ISIS attack demonstrated to people in Irbil that extremists can and will strike at them, but the peshmerga's effectiveness in repelling the assault showed through.

Canadian participation in the raids came as the new Liberal government is actively considering when to withdraw its six CF-18s from combat and how to beef up the ground training mission of local forces.

There are 69 Canadian special forces trainers who are assisting the Kurdish peshmerga in the region of Irbil, but the U.S. coalition command says there have been no casualties.



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