Iraqi troops, Kurdish fighters and Shi'ite militiamen, backed by U.S. airstrikes, entered the town of Sulaiman Bek, south of Kirkuk, on Monday, ending three months of control in the area by the Islamic State group, a military source said.
After freeing the nearby town of Amerli on Sunday, Iraqi forces kept up the momentum of their advance on Monday, with Kurdish peshmerga fighters and Shi'ite militiamen retaking Sulaiman Bek, an important militant stronghold.
The fighters were conducting a house-to-house search operation in the town, which is about 10 kilometers (6 miles) northeast of Amerli.
Watch related video by Sebastian Meyer in Kirkuk, Iraq
Shi'ite militia groups, such as Asaib Ahl Al-Haq, which helped free Sulaiman Bek on Monday, have gained in popularity since the beginning of June when Islamic State fighters launched a blitz across northern Iraq.
"Within a few hours, we were able to clear the town completely," the commander of the Shi'ite Badr militia, Transport Minister Hadi al-Ameri, told the French news agency AFP amid heavy security in Sulaiman Bek.
Iraqi troops, with support from Kurdish fighters and Shi'ite militiamen, also surrounded the nearby town of Yankaja and were pounding it with artillery and machinegun fire as they fought to retake it from militants.
Human rights violations
The United Nations Human Rights Council on Monday condemned violations committed by Islamic State forces in Iraq that may amount to international crimes and agreed to send a mission to investigate them.
The forum adopted a resolution presented by France and Iraq without a vote, but South Africa's delegation said it disassociated itself from the text as it lacked balance.
“We are facing a terrorist monster,” Iraq's human rights minister, Mohammed Shia' Al Sudani, told the emergency session in Geneva. “Acts by ISIS threaten not only to Iraq but the whole region and world.”
The U.N.'s mission to Iraq, known as UNAMI, reported on Monday that more than 1,400 Iraqis were killed by violence or terrorism in August. It added that 1,370 were wounded, including 1,198 civilians.
July's death toll stood at 1,737 people.
Nearly 11,000 Iraqis have been killed so far this year, far outpacing the 9,000 killed in all of 2013.
Also Monday, the United Nations said that at least 1,420 Iraqis were reported killed in violence in August, down from the previous month.
The statement said the figures are the "absolute minimum" number of casualties and they do not include deaths in the western Anbar province or other parts of northern Iraq that have been held by militants for months.
It added: "The actual figures could be significantly higher."
Aid arrives in Amerli
Aid began to flow to Amerli on Monday, a day after security forces backed by Iran-allied Shi'ite militias and U.S. airstrikes broke a two-month siege by Sunni militants on the Turkman Shi'ite town of about 15,000 people.
Ali al-Bayati, who heads local NGO the Turkmen Saving Foundation, said on Monday that four trucks loaded with foodstuffs, medicine and fruit had entered the town.
The aid was sent by the Iraqi government and the Iraqi Red Crescent, he said, adding that soldiers had begun bringing food to families in their houses Sunday night.
"The situation is getting back to normal, but gradually," al-Bayati told The Associated Press. "Some people have come out from their houses and walk in the street. Shops are still closed, but people are happy to see their city secured by Iraqi security forces."
On Sunday, the U.S. military dropped thousands of liters of drinking water and thousands of meals over the town. More aid was dropped from British, French and Australian planes.
Also on Monday, Iraqi state TV showed caretaker Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki arriving in Amerli.
Maliki took a tour of the streets of the town, greeting people and making stops to shake hands with the locals.
He then met with members of the Iraqi security forces and Shi'ite militia commanders including Transport Minister Amiri.
US airstrikes continue
U.S. military forces continued to attack Islamic State terrorists in Iraq, conducting three airstrikes Sunday and Monday near the Mosul Dam.
Officials said the strikes destroyed several vehicles and a mortar position near the dam.
U.S. Central Command said it has conducted a total of 123 airstrikes across Iraq.
Jeff Seldin contributed to this report from the Pentagon. Some information for this report provided by Reuters, AFP and AP.