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IS claims another jet shot down over northern Iraq

Reports come as Iraqi army begins fresh assault on IS positions north of Baghdad
IS have mounted an extensive propaganda campaign using various media forms (AFP)

The Islamic State (IS) claims to have shot down a plane in Northern Iraq, according to the group's radio station.

The al-Bayan radio station, which broadcasts on FM from the Iraqi city of Mosul, said on Sunday night that “fighters with the Islamic State air defence forces downed a bomber and took its pilot prisoner” just south of Tikrit.

The nationality of the alleged prisoner is unknown and the reports have yet to be confirmed, coming on the heels of unverified claims that IS had killed seven US soldiers and downed two helicopters.

The unconfirmed reports were circulated widely on Twitter and reported by a number of Arabic news sites including Arabi21.

hashtag created to share the news, 'Islamic State Kills 7 US soldiers and downs 2 helicopters', has created over 50,000 impressions since Sunday night.

Last week, reports emerged that IS had shot down a Jordanian plane in Syria using a heat-seeking missile and taken its pilot hostage.

US and Jordanian officials later confirmed the capture, but denied that IS had shot the plane down.

Renewed assault

The incident comes as the Iraqi military renews its assault on IS-held territory.

Iraqi forces backed by Sunni tribes advanced into the town of Dhuluiyah north of Baghdad on Sunday in a new attempt to push out Islamic State group militants, officials said.

In October, Iraqi forces retook most of Dhuluiyah from IS, but the group later launched a counter-offensive and were able to seize ground they had lost.

A Sunni tribe in the south of the town, 90km north of the capital, had been holding out against relentless attacks for nearly six months.

Iraqi forces launched their latest offensive on Friday, attacking IS positions on several fronts and capturing a string of villages south of Dhuluiyah, military officials said.

On Sunday the troops finally entered from the north backed by the air force, and seized the airport just outside the town.

"The armed forces have entered Dhuluiyah... they are reinforcing their positions," an army officer told AFP.

He said soldiers were still facing some pockets of resistance from snipers and were treading carefully to avoid landmines sown by the group.

A policeman who took part in the offensive confirmed that the airport just north of the town had been captured.

Iraqi forces are trying to tighten the noose around IS, he said.

Dhuluiyah is strategically located on roads linking the eastern province of Diyala to Salaheddin province in the north.

In November, Iraqi forces retook the strategic town of Baiji and its refinery from the IS.

Baiji is the largest town to be retaken by government troops since IS-led militants overran much of Iraq's Sunni Arab heartland in June, subsequently declaring an Islamic "caliphate" in Iraqi and Syrian territory.

After their victory in Baiji, an army brigadier said the military would seek next to isolate militants holding the city of Tikrit, home town of executed dictator Saddam Hussein, and also close in on Samarra.

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