Iraq air strikes 'kill senior Islamic State members'

A Kurdish fighter shoots towards Islamic State gunmen during clashes in northern Iraq - 4 September 2014 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.

Mass kidnapping

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.

Islamic State fighters lead away captured Iraqi soldiers after taking over a base in Tikrit, Iraq - 14 June 2014 IS is accused of committing numerous atrocities in Iraq, including the mass killing of captured soldiers

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.

Map of IS areas of control

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