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Iraqi forces launch offensive to free north Tikrit from IS
Iraqi security forces launched on Wednesday a large-scale operation to recapture areas in the north of the city of Tikrit, the capital of Salahudin province from the Islamic State (IS) militants, provincial security source said.
The troops and allied Shiite and Sunni militias, covered by U.S.-led coalition and Iraqi aircraft, started their advance in the morning in three routes to clear the areas beyond Tikrit, some 170 km north of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, Staff Lieutenant General Abdul-Wahab al-Saedi, commander of Salahudin operations, told the state-run Iraqiya television.
The battles and the airstrikes bombarded the IS militants in the oil refinery near the town of Baiji, some 200 km north of Baghdad, as well as other supply routes of the IS group that came from IS-held cities of Shirqat and Mosul in the north, Saedi said.
Meanwhile, the battles between the security forces and the IS militants in Baiji refinery continued after the extremist militants made some progress inside the huge oil facility on Tuesday, a provincial security source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
Tuesday's advance of IS came after a series of attacks that targeted the oil refinery since Saturday, but the security forces reportedly repelled the attacks with the assistance of the international coalition and Iraqi aircraft.
Battles in the Sunni dominated province of Salahudin came about two weeks after the Iraqi security forces retook control of Tikrit.
Since March 2, some 30,000 Iraqi troops and thousands of allied Shiite and Sunni militias have been involved in Iraq's biggest offensive to recapture the northern part of Salahudin province, including Tikrit and other key towns and villages, from 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 group.
[Source: Xinhua, Tikrit, 15Apr15]
War in Iraq
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