Iraq moves against Islamic State in Tikrit

تم نشره في Mon 2 March / Mar 2015. 12:13 PM
  • Tikrit was seized by IS militants in June last year

Iraq has launched a military operation to recapture Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit from Islamic State (IS), Iraqi TV says.

Local media reported that forces were attacking the city, backed by airstrikes from Iraqi fighter jets.

Tikrit lies 150km (95 miles) north of the capital Baghdad and was seized by IS militants in June 2014.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi met military leaders in Salahuddin province ahead of the advance.

He offered to pardon all Sunni tribal fighters who abandoned IS, describing it as a "last chance".

Major offensive

Al-Iraqiya TV said that IS militants had been dislodged from some areas outside Tikrit but this has not been confirmed.

It added that Iraqi police and militiamen from the Popular Mobilization Forces were advancing on Tikrit as airstrikes hit IS strongholds.

A military official told Reuters news agency that Iraqi forces had advanced 45km north (25 miles) from the central city of Samarra towards the embattled town of al-Dour.

Mr Abadi declared the start of the operation late on Sunday, as tens of thousands of troops and militia gathered in Samarra in preparation for the offensive.

Mr al-Abadi called on those "who have been misled or committed a mistake to lay down arms and join their people and security forces in order to liberate their cities".

He added that the city of Tikrit would soon return to its people.

Tikrit, hometown of former President Saddam Hussein, was the second major gain for IS after the group captured the city of Mosul in June last year.

IS militants hold several areas of Salahuddin, a predominantly Sunni Muslim province.

Mosul was home to more than a million people when it fell to IS after the militants launched an offensive in northern Iraq that saw it seize large swathes of the country.

Soldiers and allied Shia militiamen have now begun to recapture territory from IS north of Baghdad, with the help of US-led coalition air strikes.

At the same time, Kurdish peshmerga forces have been making advances around Mosul.

In February, Mr al-Abadi said that Iraqi armed forces would be launching a major offensive "in a few months' time" to retake the city from IS militants.