Iraqi offensive to retake Tikrit underway

The operation to retake Tikrit marks a major test for Iraqi forces and could be key to regaining control of Mosul

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Some 30,000 Iraqi troops and militias have launched a full-scale offensive backed by airstrikes to retake the major city of Tikrit from Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants, Al Arabiya’s correspondent in Iraq said.

“Security forces are advancing on three main fronts towards Tikrit, Ad-Dawr (to the south) and Al-Alam (to the north),” an army lieutenant colonel on the ground told Agence France-Presse by telephone.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi had announced on Sunday the “zero hour” of an operation to liberate ISIS-held territories in the province of Saladin, with its capital Tikrit, according to Al Arabiya News Channel.

Iraqi forces are also “moving along side roads to prevent Daesh’s escape,” the colonel said, using an Arab acronym for the ISIS, which has controlled the hometown of executed dictator Saddam Hussein for nearly nine months.

Residents of Tikrit were reportedly told to evacuate the area ahead of the military operation.

Iraqi officials and militia commanders regard the recapture of Tikrit as an essential step toward the liberation of Mosul.

The specifics of the battle’s plan were not revealed. But military experts believe that joint Iraq forces will attack from multiple fronts.

The first location will be from the Aoja area, south of Tikrit, with the support of Iraqi Special Forces. The second front will be from an area close to Tikrit University in which the Iraqi army and police will attack from. The third attack will carried from the southwest of Tikrit.

Security sources told Al Arabiya News Channel that Iraqi forces are now in control of the northern areas of the Albu Obaid village and west of Tikrit.

The operation to retake Tikrit, the home town of Iraq’s former President Saddam Hussein, marks a major test for Iraqi forces.

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