Iraqi Forces Launch Operation To Recapture Tikrit

Iraqi security forces have launched a major military operation to take back the town of Tikrit from Islamic State militants.

Some 30,000 troops and militia, supported by aircraft, attacked jihadist positions around the city.

The hometown of Saddam Hussein, it fell under the control of the group last summer along with Iraq’s second-largest city of Mosul.

Backed by air strikes from the US-led coalition, Iraqi troops recently seized the nearby refinery town of Baiji.

US military officials have said an operation to retake Mosul could begin in April or May and involve up to 25,000 Iraqi troops, but would only take place if Tikrit has been recaptured because of its strategic location on the road to Mosul.

Al-Iraqiya television said forces were attacking Tikrit from different directions and were being supported by artillery and air strikes from Iraqi fighters.

Ahead of the operation, Prime Minister Haider al Abadi called on Sunni tribal fighters to abandon IS, and offering what he described as “the last chance” to get an official pardon.

He said: “I call upon 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.”

Mr al Abadi also called for “utmost care in protecting civilian lives and property”.

According to Iraqi and Iranian media,Qassem Soleimani – commander of the Quds Force covert operations unit in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard – was in Salahuddin province to help coordinate the operation.

Hadi al Ameri, commander of the government-controlled volunteer group Popular Mobilisation, called for residents in Tikrit to leave their homes so government forces could “wrap up the battle of the revenge for Speicher”.

Speicher is a military base near Tikrit from where hundreds of mostly Shia recruits were kidnapped and executed in June last year at the start of the IS offensive north of Baghdad.

Iraqi forces have tried and failed several times to recapture Tikrit, which is around 100 miles north of Baghdad.

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3 March 2015 | 12:11 am – Source: orange.co.uk

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