Iraqi forces launch anti-IS operation north of Tikrit

AFP , Friday 17 Oct 2014

A military vehicle of Iraqi security forces is seen in Diyala province north of Baghdad October 3, 2014. Picture taken October 3, 2014 (Photo: Reuters)

Iraqi security forces launched an operation on Friday aimed at regaining ground from the Islamic State jihadist group north of the militant-held city of Tikrit, officials said.

Security forces backed by air support have begun "an operation to liberate areas north of the city of Tikrit," said Ali Mussa, an adviser to the governor of Salaheddin province, where the operation is taking place.

An army lieutenant colonel also confirmed the launch of the operation north of the city, which was seized on June 11 during a sweeping Islamic State-led militant offensive that overran large areas of the country.

The officer said that security forces were moving slowly toward the militant-held Baiji district due to bombs along the way, and were also advancing west of Tikrit.

While the sources were positive about the operation, its scale was not immediately clear, and other efforts to regain ground in Salaheddin province have ended in failure after initial reports of success.

A US-led coalition is carrying out air strikes against IS forces in both Iraq and Syria, where the group also holds significant territory.

But Iraqi troops have struggled to retake and hold ground.

The IS group has pushed back Iraqi government forces in the western province of Anbar in recent weeks, prompting some officials to warn that the entire region could fall to jihadists.

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