Kurds, Islamic State clash near Kurdish regional capital

(Reuters) - Kurdish forces attacked Islamic State fighters just 40 kilometers (25 miles) southwest of the Kurdish regional capital of Arbil in northern Iraq, a senior Kurdish official told Reuters on Wednesday.

"We have changed our tactics from being defensive to being offensive. Now we are clashing with the Islamic State in Makhmur," said Jabbar Yawar, secretary-general of the ministry of the Kurdish peshmerga fighters.

Yawar said the Kurds had re-established military cooperation with Baghdad.

Ties had been strained between the Kurdish leadership and the Shi'ite-led government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki over oil, budgets and land.

But a dramatic weekend offensive in the north by the Sunni militants prompted them to bury differences and work together against the biggest threat to Iraq's security since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Yawar said 50,000 members of Iraq's Yazidi ethnic minority who fled the offensive and are hiding on a mountain near the town of Sinjar risked starving to death if they are not rescued in 24 hours.

"Many have already died," he said without elaborating.

Islamic State Attacks Yazidi Religious Sect: 'Convert Or Die'
Islamic State Attacks Yazidi Religious Sect: 'Convert Or Die'

Learn More:
Who are the Kurds?
Sunni Islam
Shia Islam
Yazidi Ethnic Minority

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(Reporting by Ahmed Rasheed and Isra' al-Rubei'i; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Hugh Lawson)