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IS fires rockets at Iraq base used by Turkish troops

ANKARA/ERBIL, Iraq (Reuters) - Islamic State militants fired rockets at a base in northern Iraq where Turkish troops are stationed on Wednesday, as they launched a wave of attacks against Kurdish forces, officials said.

The Turkish Armed Forces said in a statement its soldiers returned fire, and four had been lightly injured when katyusha rockets landed in their camp north of the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul.

Turkey deployed around 150 troops in the Bashiqa area earlier this month with the stated aim of training an Iraqi militia to fight Islamic State. The Iraqi government says they are not welcome and must withdraw.

The base is in an area controlled by Kurdish peshmerga forces, which repelled several attacks by Islamic State on Wednesday with the help of more than 25 air strikes from the U.S.-led coalition.

Seventy “terrorists” were killed in the fighting, in which the Sunni Islamists used suicide bombs and car bombs, the Kurdistan Region’s Security Council said in a statement.

“This was an attempt by ISIL (Islamic State) to breach peshmerga defensive lines following significant losses in recent months,” read the statement.

“Pressure continues to build on ISIL as peshmerga forces hold supply lines connecting their key strongholds in Iraq and Syria”.

Kurdish forces last month retook the town of Sinjar from Islamic State, cutting the main road between Mosul and Raqqa.

The Turkish deployment in Iraq has strained relations between Ankara and Baghdad, which complained to the U.N. Security Council last week.

Turkey withdrew some troops earlier this week, moving them to another base inside Iraq’s Kurdistan region, but Baghdad said they should pull out completely.

The Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement Wednesday’s fighting demonstrated it had been right to send additional forces to protect its personnel: “This attack showed how legitimate our concerns were about the security of Bashiqa camp,” it said.

Reporting by Isabel Coles in Erbil, Orhan Coskun and Tulay Karadeniz in Ankara; editing by Andrew Roche