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Iraqi Forces Advance In Tikrit

March 11, 2015

Iraqi security officials say government forces have retaken parts of Tikrit as they battle the Islamic State (IS) extremist group to retake the city.

The office of Salah al-Din Province's Governor Raed al-Juburi announced on March 11 'the purging of half of Qadisiya district,' a neighborhood stretching north of the city center.

A major general was quoted as saying troops and mainly Shi'ite militia were 'now doing combat missions to cleanse' the neighborhood.

'We are not facing fighters on the ground, we are facing booby-trapped terrain and sniper fire, the officer told AFP news agency. 'Our movement is slow.'

The development comes after Iraqi forces captured Al-Alam, a town on the northern edge of Tikrit, on March 10.

However, little progress has been reported in the city's south and west.

On the western outskirts, reports said Iraqi forces were halted by a minefield.

To the south, no ground operation was taking place but the army and military helicopters reportedly shelled IS positions.

The IS militants seized the hometown of late dictator Saddam Hussein in June 2014, after the Iraqi Army collapsed in the face of a lightning advance by the group across northern and western Iraq.

The military launched an offensive 10 days ago aimed at driving the IS group from Tikrit, some 130 kilometers north of Baghdad, with Iran helping to coordinate the 30,000 soldiers and militia fighters involved.

The force is not being supported by U.S.-led coalition air strikes.

In northern Iraq, IS militants came under attack this week from Kurdish forces around the city of Kirkuk, which has been controlled by Peshmerga fighters since August.

Kirkuk Province's Security Council said on March 10 that Kurdish forces gained control of a strategic junction linking Kirkuk to Mosul, the largest Iraqi city under IS control.

A Kurdish commander, Major General Omar Hassan, said his forces would press on with their offensive in coming days.

In the western province of Anbar, police said the IS group launched on March 11 a coordinated attack on government-held areas of the provincial capital, Ramadi, located 100 kilometers west of Baghdad.

At least five people were killed and 19 wounded in the attack, which involved seven suicide car bombs.

Members of security forces were among the dead.

According to Anbar Governor Sohaib al-Rawi, Iraqi security forces were 'ready and had excellent intelligence about the operation.'

'What happened in Ramadi today is a clear victory for Anbar,' he said on social media.

Most of Anbar is under IS control.

With reporting by Reuters and AFP


Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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