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Canadian forces exchange gunfire with Islamic State in Iraq

Canadian official says troops came under mortar and machine gunfire in Iraq, in the first confirmed ground battle between coalition forces and IS
The Islamic State group controls large swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria (AFP)

Canadian special forces have exchanged gunfire with the Islamic State (IS) group in recent days in Iraq, in the first confirmed ground battle between Western troops and IS, according to a senior Canadian official.

Canadian troops "came under immediate and effective mortar and machine gunfire", special forces commander Brigadier General Michael Rouleau said Monday.

Rouleau said the forces used sniper fire to "neutralise both threats" and there were no Canadian injuries.

He said the clash had taken place in the previous seven days and was "the first time we've taken fire and returned fire" in Iraq.

The United States has previously reported having launched an unsuccessful hostage-rescue operation against IS in Syria, but Western forces have not officially engaged in ground combat.

Canada has some 600 troops in the region participating in airstrikes against IS, including about 60 of whom are special forces training and advising Iraqi troops on the ground but theoretically not in combat.

Also on Monday, the US Central Command (CENTCOM) said in a statement that US and coalition forces had launched 15 air strikes on IS targets in Syria, and another 18 strikes in Iraq, between 8am Sunday and 8am Monday local time.

The US, Britain, Canada, Australia, Belgium, Denmark, France and the Netherlands are fighting IS in Iraq, while the US, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, and Jordan are carrying out air strikes in Syria.