Kurdish forces backed by U.S.-led air strikes are pressing an attack on Islamic State in northeastern Syria that has killed at least 170 members of the jihadist group this week, a Kurdish official and a monitoring group said on Wednesday.
The official said Kurdish YPG fighters and allied militia have encircled Islamic State militants in a dozen villages near the town of Tel Tamr in Hasaka province. The region is important in the battle against Islamic State because it borders land controlled by the jihadists in Iraq.
The Kurdish YPG appear to be trying to drive Islamic State from a stronghold in the mountainous Jabal Abdul Aziz area to the southwest of Tel Tamr, said Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.
The U.S.-led alliance bombing Islamic State in Syria has been coordinating its air strikes in Hasaka with the YPG, after successfully joining forces with the Kurds to drive the jihadists from Kobani, or Ayn al-Arab, in January.
The Kurdish official, Nasir Haj Mansour, said around 80 Islamic State fighters were killed in an ambush when they tried to flee the Tel Tamr area for Jabal Abdul Aziz earlier this week. Dozens more were killed in air strikes.
"The confirmed number of (Islamic State) dead is between 170 and 200," said Mansour, speaking by telephone from Syria.
Around 100 Islamic State fighters were still encircled in the villages near Tel Tamr, he added.
Abdulrahman confirmed the YPG had effectively encircled Islamic State fighters in the villages near Tel Tamr. "The YPG are getting ready to launch attack on Jabal Abdul Aziz," he said.
Islamic State is still believed to be holding some 200 Assyrian Christians abducted in February from villages near Tel Tamr.
The U.S.-led Combined Joint Task Force said on Tuesday it had carried out seven air strikes since early Monday in Hasaka that had destroyed vehicles, fighting positions and a shipping container.