Reuters International

ERBIL, Iraq (Reuters) - Islamic State militants attacked Kurdish peshmerga forces on multiple fronts in northern Iraq on Tuesday, breaching their defences and briefly taking over a town, military sources said.

The attacks around the northern city of Mosul are the largest against Kurdish forces in recent months by the insurgents, who have been losing ground to an array of forces in the north and west of the country.

The head of a Christian militia said the insurgents had overrun their positions at dawn around the town of Tel Asqof, 20 km (12 miles) north of Mosul, and occupied it until being beaten back with the help of air strikes from a U.S.-led coalition.

"There were many suicide bombers and suicide car bombs," said Safa Eliyas, the head of the Nineveh Protection Forces, which are deployed alongside the peshmerga in the area.

There were also attacks on the Bashiqa front and in the Khazer area, about 40 km (25 miles) west of the Kurdish regional capital Erbil.

Since the United States intervened to blunt Islamic State's advance on Erbil in August 2014, the peshmerga have driven the militants back in the north. The militants are rarely able to penetrate Kurdish defences.

Peshmerga Secretary General Jabbar Yawar said details of the offensives were still unclear, but they constituted the biggest attacks in recent months.

"The battles are ongoing," he said.

(Reporting by Isabel Coles; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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