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December 12, 2017
Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Iraqi forces push into Tikrit, bombers hit Ramadi

Iraqi security forces and militias have fought their way into Saddam Hussein's home city of Tikrit, advancing on two fronts in their biggest counter-offensive so far against Islamic State militants.

In a possible response to the fighting north of Baghdad, militants in the Islamic State stronghold of Anbar west of the capital launched 13 suicide car bomb attacks on army and security positions in the provincial capital of Ramadi.

Army and militia fighters captured part of Tikrit's northern Qadisiya district, the provincial governor said, while in the south of the Tigris river city a security officer said another force made a rapid push towards the centre.

"The forces entered Tikrit general hospital," an official at the main military operation command centre said. "There is heavy fighting going on near the presidential palaces, next to the hospital complex."

Islamic State fighters stormed into Tikrit last June during a lightning offensive that was halted just outside Baghdad. They have since used the complex of palaces built in Tikrit under Saddam, the executed former president, as their headquarters.

More than 20,000 troops and Iranian-backed Shi'ite Muslim militias known as Hashid Shaabi, supported by local Sunni Muslim tribes, launched the offensive for Tikrit 10 days ago, advancing from the east and along the banks of the Tigris.

On Tuesday they took the town of al-Alam on the northern edge of Tikrit, paving the way for an attack on the city itself.

"The governor of Salahuddin announces the purging of half of Qadisiya district, the largest of Tikrit's neighbourhoods," a statement from governor Raed al-Jubouri's office said.

The army and militia fighters raised the national flag above a military hospital in the section of Qadisiya they had retaken from the militants, security officials said.

After pausing while helicopters attacked Islamic State snipers and positions, the ground forces were progressing steadily, taking "one street every 30 minutes", the security official said. He said there was fierce fighting around Tikrit police headquarters just south of Qadisiya.

To the northwest, troops and Hashid Shaabi fighters clashed with Islamic State militants in the industrial zone, he added.

Another official said later that six soldiers and militia fighters were killed by sniper fire in Qadisiya in the evening. He said the advance had been halted by a combination of sniper fire and heavy fighting, and the attacking forces were waiting for militia reinforcements.

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Tags:  Iraq  Islamic State  US  fighting  allies  





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