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Iraqi forces repel Islamic State offensive south of Mosul, 38 killed

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TIRKIT, Iraq (Reuters) - Iraqi forces repelled an offensive launched in the early hours of Saturday by Islamic State on the Sunni town of Shirqat, south of Mosul, during which 38 military and civilians were killed and about 40 more wounded, security sources said.

Islamic State lost 24 fighters in the attack, which ended around midday, the sources said.

About half the dead in the city and its surroundings were civilians and the rest members of the Iraqi armed forces and Sunni tribal fighters.

Authorities declared a curfew in the region between Mosul and the Iraqi capital Baghdad.

Islamic State lost Shirqat to U.S.-backed Iraqi government forces and tribal fighters last year. Its fall paved the way for the offensive on Mosul, the militants’ de-facto capital in Iraq.

Eight months into the U.S-backed offensive to take back Mosul, all of the city has been retaken by Iraqi government forces except an enclave by the western bank of the Tigris river.

The militants continue to control pockets south and west of Mosul, as well as swathes of territory near the border with Syria and inside Syria.

Reporting by Ghazwan Hassan; writing by Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by Kevin Liffey