Iraq: Kurdish forces take back Christian villages from ISIS

AP/Press Association Images

Kurdish forces recaptured seven Christian villages yesterday from ISIS militants in Iraq, in the latest apparent setback for the vicious regime.

Tens of thousands of Christians and other minorities were driven from their homes by the Islamic State militants this year, and threatened with death if they did not pay a bribe or convert to Islam. This has prompted Western support for the local Kurdish army, which is fighting against the ISIS advance.

US air strikes were credited with helping the Kurdish peshmerga to regain seven of the invaded villages in between Mosul and the Kurdish capital Erbil, according to a report from AFP news wire

"We liberated those villages with the support of US aircraft," Major Sardar Ali told AFP. He said that many of the freed homes had been booby-trapped by the ISIS militants as they retreated.

A Catholic cleric, who was not named, also confirmed the progress, and said the villages are strategically important due to their location near to Qaraqosh and Bartalla. "The peshmerga managed to liberate several villages... [ISIS] militants have now fled from there," the cleric told AFP.

It is the latest defeat for ISIS, who had made sweeping military gains in Iraq in June. They have also been driven away from the strategically important Haditha and Mosul dams by US airstrikes, according to reports.

The beheading of three hostages, one British aid worker David Haines, has led to a hardening of resolve from Western governments on the situation in Iraq. ISIS threatened to kill more hostages if US airstrikes do not stop.