US planes, Iraqi ground forces battle IS jihadists

US-led warplanes pummelled jihadists in Syria today as local forces fought the Islamic State group on the ground in neighbouring Iraq, which the US military declared its top priority.

Mursitpinar: US-led warplanes pummelled jihadists in Syria today as local forces fought the Islamic State group on the ground in neighbouring Iraq, which the US military declared its top priority.

As fighting raged on several fronts, Al-Qaeda's deadly Yemen-based franchise urged Muslims worldwide to support the IS jihadists in Syria and Iraq.

The US commander overseeing the air war hailed "encouraging" signs in the efforts to defend Kobane, but said the town could still fall to extremists and that confronting IS in Iraq was the coalition's top focus.

"Iraq is our main effort and it has to be," General Lloyd Austin said.

Six US-led coalition air strikes hit IS positions in the east of Kobane today, taking advantage of new coordination with the town's Kurdish defenders, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The jihadist group has captured large parts of Syria and Iraq, committing atrocities and declaring an Islamic "caliphate".

The Observatory said IS fighters were now being trained to fly three fighter jets seized from the Syrian military.

It said that former Iraqi army officers who once served under Saddam Hussein were supervising the training at the Jarrah military airport in the northern province of Aleppo.

In Iraq security forces today fought IS jihadists on two fronts -- in the strategic city of Ramadi, west of Baghdad, and near militant-held Tikrit to the north.

Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, is one of a dwindling number of areas in the region where pro-government forces still hold ground, and its loss would be a major blow for Baghdad.

Iraqi government forces launched an offensive today north of Tikrit, one of a string of mainly Sunni Arab towns north and west of Baghdad that the jihadists seized in June.

Iraqi troops have been struggling to retake and hold ground, despite the US-led air bombardments.

But the US military said that Baghdad was not under "imminent threat" from the jihadists, despite a string of deadly car bombs in the Iraqi capital.

"There are not masses of formations of (IS) forces outside of Baghdad about to come in," spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said.

Kobane district chief Anwar Muslim said the US-led strikes had destroyed many IS vehicles and artillery pieces.

"You can see their bodies (IS jihadists) in the streets... Our forces are reinforcing their defensive positions," he told AFP.

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