This site uses cookies to improve your experience and to provide services and advertising. By continuing to browse, you agree to the use of cookies described in our Cookies Policy. You may change your settings at any time but this may impact on the functionality of the site. To learn more see our Cookies Policy.
OK
Dublin: 6 °C Friday 24 January, 2020
Advertisement

Iraqi troops launch major operation against IS fighters over Saddam's hometown

Meanwhile, Washington insists it is not ‘on the same page’ as Syria in their fight against Islamic State militants.

An Iraq Shiite fighter fires his weapon during clashes with militants from the extremist Islamic State group in Jurf al-Sakhar, 43 miles (70 kilometers) south of Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, Aug 18, 2014.
An Iraq Shiite fighter fires his weapon during clashes with militants from the extremist Islamic State group in Jurf al-Sakhar, 43 miles (70 kilometers) south of Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, Aug 18, 2014.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

IRAQI GOVERNMENT TROOPS and allied militiamen launched a major operation today to retake the city of Tikrit from Sunni militants, senior officials said.

“The Iraqi army and (Shiite) volunteers, backed by Iraqi helicopters, are taking part” in the operation to retake the hometown of executed former president Saddam Hussein, a high-ranking army officer told AFP.

He said the military push started early in the morning from the south and southwest of the city, which lies around 160km north of the capital Baghdad.

The operation came as jihadists were busy on other fronts further north, where resurgent Kurdish pershmerga forces, buoyed by Western arms deliveries and US airstrikes, have gone on the offensive.

Jihadist fighters from the Islamic State group which had already occupied parts of Syria launched an offensive in Iraq on June 9 and soon took over much of the country’s Sunni heartland.

Tikrit fell on June 11 and has since been controlled mostly by Sunni militant groups, including former members of Saddam’s ruling Baath party.

Iraqi government forces, which folded when jihadist-led militants swept across five provinces more than two months ago, have made Tikrit one of the main targets of their fightback.

The army, with the support of Shiite volunteers, have tried and failed twice to take back Tikrit.

Dam taken

Obama yesterday hailed the Kurds’ recapture of a major dam outside Mosul but warned Baghdad that “the wolf is at the door” and said it must move quickly to build an inclusive government.

Securing the dam was the biggest prize yet clawed back from the so-called “Islamic State” since it launched a major offensive in northern Iraq in June, sweeping aside Iraqi security forces.

Obama President Barack Obama speaks in the James Brady Press Briefing Room in the White House in Washington, Monday, Aug. 18, 2014. Source: AP/Press Association Images

“Iraqi and Kurdish forces took the lead on the ground and performed with courage and determination,” Obama said, warning that the dam would have devastated cities downstream had it been breached.

“So this operation demonstrates that Iraqi and Kurdish forces are capable of working together and taking the fight to ISIL.

Syrian force

Washington and Damascus are “not on the same page” in the fight against their common enemy the Islamic State, whose militants have declared a “caliphate” straddling swathes of Iraq and Syria, US officials said Monday.

The United States has been battling IS insurgents just over the Syrian border in Iraq with a series of air strikes that began on August 8.

Over the past three days, US military aircraft carried out 35 strikes, destroying more than 90 IS targets in the most intensive bombardments since the start of the campaign.

While acknowledging that Syria and the United States shared a common enemy, State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said the two have yet to share common ground.

“I would strongly disagree with the notion that we are on the same page here in terms of what we’re doing,” Harf said.

She also stressed that “in Iraq, we have a government that has asked for our help and asked for our support and welcomed us in. That obviously is not the case in Syria.”

Yesterday, Syrian warplanes bombed IS positions in the northern province of Raqa for a second day and warplanes targeted several IS-held positions in Aleppo province.

“It’s a good thing when ISIS fighters are taken off the battlefield, period,” Harf said, using another acronym by which the group is known.

But “I’m not going to say that we share anything in common with the Syrian regime,” she added

- © AFP, 2014

Read: Pope Francis has endorsed the use of force to stop Islamic militants in Iraq >

  • Share on Facebook
  • Email this article
  •  

About the author:

AFP

Read next:

COMMENTS (60)

This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel