Baghdad: Iraqi security forces on Wednesday retook control of part of Tikrit city, the capital of Salahudin province, as clashes with the Islamic State (IS) militants continued.
The troops and government-backed Shia and Sunni militias entered the city, located some 170km north of Baghdad, and captured most of the northern district of al-Qadsiyah, Xinhua cited a security source as saying.
They also captured the industrial district and two western districts, while more troops are making their way to the centre of the city from the southern districts of Shisheen and Albu Obied.
An Iraqi flag was raised by the troops on the building of a military hospital. The troops, supported by dozens of tanks, armoured vehicles, heavy artillery shelling and Iraqi aircraft, are pushing forward amid heavy clashes with the IS militants, who already prepared the battle scene by planting hundreds of landmines, roadside bombs and booby-trapped buildings.
“Tikrit will be liberated soon. The security forces, Hashid al-Shaabi militias and fighters of the Sunni tribes have surrounded the city from all directions and are moving forward to clear it from the extremists,” Governor of Salahudin Raed al-Jubouri said.
Early on Tuesday, the Iraqi forces launched a major offensive against the radical group as they tried to enter the nearby areas of Tikrit but met with fierce resistance from the IS militants.
Some 30,000 Iraqi troops and thousands of allied Shia and Sunni militias have been involved in a week-long offensive to recapture Tikrit and other key towns and villages in northern part of the Salahudin province from the IS militants.
Large parts of the province have been under IS control since June 2014 after bloody clashes broke out between Iraqi security forces and the IS group.
The group took control of the country’s northern city of Mosul and later seized swathes of territories in Nineveh and other predominantly Sunni provinces.