Iraq launches Tikrit operation against Islamic State

Written by on March 2, 2015


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 earlier 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”.

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

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

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.

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.

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