IRBIL, Iraq – Islamic State mounted a major offensive Wednesday, striking multiple sites in northern Iraq, but Kurdish Peshmerga forces backed by U.S. and coalition air support were able to rout the group in a counterattack that left more than 200 Islamic State militants dead, U.S. defense officials said.
Using car bombs, suicide bombers, small arms and even bulldozers, Islamic State conducted a surprise attack against Peshmerga forces in four locations around Mosul late Wednesday, according to U.S. military officials here.
It was one of the largest attacks of its kind since Islamic State arrived in Iraq last year, they said.
Col. Steve Warren, a senior spokesman for the U.S. military in Iraq, said that the multiple Islamic State attacks Wednesday had “achieved a tactical surprise”, but praised the effectiveness of the Peshmerga fighters against the militant group. “The pesh got a little bit of a black eye, but they put the other guy in the hospital,” said Col. Warren. “This is the largest punch that ISIL has thrown, and the pesh handily defeated them,” he said.
After a 17-hour battle, which included Peshmerga fighters supported by U.S., French, British and Canadian aircraft, scores of Islamic State militants were dead, including 180 fighters killed by airstrikes. More than 20 others were killed in fighting with Peshmerga forces on the ground, a U.S. military official said.
Another military official here said about 18 Peshmerga fighters also were killed in the battle.
Brig. Gen. Mark Odom, the senior American officer in charge in northern Iraq, said Islamic State attacks are fewer and have become less lethal in recent months. Attacks that do occur originate from a greater distance and rely more on indirect fire, like artillery, rockets and mortar, rather than direct attacks at closer range, using small arms and other weaponry.