Sunday, June 29, 2014

Iraqi army launches new offensive to recapture Tikrit

HRW said up to 190 men were executed by ISIS between 11 and 14 June (File/AFP)
The human rights group Human Rights Watch estimated that ISIS has executed between 160 and 190 men in at least two locations in and around Tikrit between 11 June and 14 June. The estimations are based on the analyses of photographs posted by ISIS itself and satellite images. HRW says that the final count could be higher. (Photo AFP)

The Iraqi military on Sunday launched its greatest offensive to regain lost territory, as troops backed by tanks and air power advanced north from Samarra, the city by the Tigris river where the advance of the  militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was checked.
 The soldiers, who have been boosted by Sunni tribesmen and Shia militia, are understood to be attacking Tikrit from the south and west. The predominately Sunni city, 90 miles north of the capital, was Saddam Hussein's home town and a center of anti-U.S. insurgency.
Iraqi forces first sought to enter the city, which is the capital of the Salahuddin province, on Thursday when special forces were dropped into a university from four helicopters. One helicopter was shot down and another suffered mechanical failure and had to make an emergency leading, resulting in several Iraqis and a Lebanese pilot reportedly being captured by ISIS. The army however managed to recapture the al-Alam district south of Tikrit. In a similar operation in the city earlier Thursday, the Iraqi army took back control of a strategically located university that had fallen into the hands of ISIS.

Last night, fighting was reported to be continuing at the campus, which had also been targeted by air strikes from helicopter gunships. Iraq state television proclaimed Tikrit's liberation but a tribal leader said much of the city remained in ISIS´ hands, with residents saying its men still patrolled the streets. Black smoke was reported rising from a presidential palace complex.
"Tikrit has become a ghost town," said a local man, Muhanad Saif al-Din. "The few who remain are afraid of possible revenge attacks by Shia militia who are accompanying the army." He said Tikrit has been without power or water since Friday.
Elsewhere, in the eastern province of Diyala, Iraqi forces regained control of the small town of Mansouriyat al-Jabal northeast of Baghdad, a strategic town amidst a number of gas fields. The Iraqi army has also announced that it has sent more reinforcements to the city of Samarra, north of Baghdad, after retaking control of a main road connecting the two cities.
On June 10, militants from the ISIL took control of Mosul, the provincial capital of Nineveh.

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