Iraq strikes kill top IS members

Iraqi forces supported by Kurdish and Shia fighters have managed to push IS out of several towns in Iraq

A senior Islamic State military commander in Iraq has been killed in an air strike on the northern city of Mosul, Iraqi state media report

Iraq’s defence ministry also said a top aide to IS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi had been killed in a strike on Mosul, but neither death has been confirmed

Separately, IS fighters were reported to have kidnapped 40 men from a town in northern Iraq on Thursday

The group has taken over swathes of Iraq and Syria in recent months

Iraqiya TV quoted defence officials as saying Abu Alaa al-Iraqi, head of the IS military council in the city of Tal Afar, had died in an air strike.

Earlier reports on social media had suggested that al-Baghdadi himself had been killed in a separate strike on Mosul.

But the defence ministry said intelligence suggested the strike had killed one of the leader’s senior aides instead.

US forces began carrying out air strikes on IS positions in August after they took over several cities in northern Iraq. It is unclear whether the latest strikes were by US or Iraqi forces.

Residents in the northern province of Kirkuk said IS fighters had kidnapped dozens of men on Thursday, dragging them into cars in the town of Hawija before driving off

Locals said it was unclear why the men had been taken, saying IS had taken over the Sunni town without encountering any resistance last month

IS militants were said to have retreated from the village on Wednesday and residents were reported to have set fire to a flag left behind by the group

Amnesty International has accused IS of systematic ethnic cleansing including mass killings of ethnic and religious minorities

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch said said it had uncovered new sites of mass killings in the Iraqi city of Tikrit

On Wednesday, President Barack Obama vowed to destroy the group after it released a video showing the beheading of American journalist Steven Sotloff

The group has carried out several more beheadings, including that of another US journalist, James Foley, and several Kurdish fighters

Iraqi security forces, fighting alongside Kurdish and Shia fighters, recently launched an offensive against IS-controlled towns

They have pushed IS out of several towns but the group remains in control of large areas

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