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Security forces battle Sunni militants in Iraq

Iraqi security forces on Sunday continued their clashed against Sunni militant groups in several provinces across the country, while the government received a boost in its battles against the militants with the arrival of five Sukhoi 25 jet fighters, security sources said.

In Salahudin province, helicopter gunships pounded neighborhoods in and around the provincial capital city of Tikrit, some 170 km north of Baghdad, as the troops still in control of the Tikrit University in northern the city, a provincial police source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.

In one air strike, the helicopters bombed a house in al-Uwinat area, leaving nine killed, the source said.

Military spokesman Lieutenant General Qassim Atta told a news conference in Baghdad that the Iraqi security forces are in full control of the university compound.

"The troops are there and the university is secured and the Iraqi flag is hoisting on the main building of the university," he said.

During the day, more clashes between the Sunni militants and security forces occurred in north of Tikrit around a military base that previously was used by the U.S. forces, known as Camp Speicher, which is still under the control of Iraqi troops, the police source said.

The militant-seized city of Tikrit was the target of a major offensive on Saturday by the Iraqi security forces which advanced to the city from four routes, but apparently were repelled by the Sunni militants who stopped the troops near the town of Dijla.

On June 11, Sunni militants, including those who are linked to the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL), an al-Qaida offshoot, took control of the city of Tikrit when hundreds of gunmen entered the city after the security forces fled the scene.

Separately, gunmen kidnapped 20 policemen, including officers, from their homes at a village near the city of al-Shirqat, some 110 km north of Tikrit, the source said.

The gunmen also bombed the house of Major General Jumaa Unad, chief of Salahudin provincial police, in the village, the source said. Unad himself escaped the bombing unharmed as he was not at home during the attack.

Near Baghdad, gunmen set off two roadside bombs on a convoy of army vehicles in Tarmiyah area, some 40 km north of Baghdad, before they fired mortar rounds on the convoy, leaving at least four soldiers killed and nine others wounded, the local police source told Xinhua.

In Iraq's eastern province of Diyala, a security force backed by Shiite militiamen affiliated to the Asa'b Ahl al-Haq, or League of the Righteous, clashed with Sunni militants who earlier seized the town of Mansouriyah, some 45 km east of the provincial capital Baquba, leaving three Sunni militants killed, while a Shiite militiaman was killed and four security members were wounded, a provincial police source said.

Asa'b Ahl al-Haq is a Shiite militia that splintered from the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army. They are part of what the U.S. and Iraqi officials earlier named Special Groups, who are allegedly funded, trained and armed by Iran's Quds Force during the U.S. occupation of Iraq and later became allied to the Shiite-led government in Baghdad.

Two more Shiite militiamen were killed in clashes between Sunni militants and Shiite militia backed by the troops in the city of Maqdadiyah, in northeast of Baquba, which located some 65 km northeast of Baghdad, the source said.

Two gunmen and two civilians were killed in sporadic clashes across the province, the source added.

Some 3,000 families have been displaced from their homes in the mainly Sunni cities across the province recently when the Sunni militant groups launched a surprise advance to take over large areas across the country.

In Anbar province, clashes between the Sunni militants continued during the day around the city of Haditha, some 200 km northwest of Baghdad, as well as the cities of Ramdai and Fallujah, a provincial police source said.

Three civilians were killed and 13 others, including two children, were wounded in air strikes by the Iraqi aircraft during the past 24 hours on several neighborhoods in the city of Fallujah, some 50 km west of Baghdad, a source from the city hospital told Xinhua.

Earlier in the day, the Iraqi Defense Ministry said that Iraq has received the first batch of 5 Russian Sukhoi-25 warplanes to support its security forces in fighting against Sunni militants who took control of large swathes of territories in several Sunni provinces in the country.

The newly-purchased Su-25 will contribute to increasing the combat capability of the Iraqi Air Force and provide support to the Iraqi security forces in their mission to eliminate terrorism, an official statement said.

Earlier, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said Thursday in an interview with BBC Arabic Service that Iraq was buying more than a dozen of second-hand jet fighters from Russia.

Iraq has bought F-16 jet fighters from the United States, but the deal needs more time to be implemented.

"We should have sought to buy other jet fighters like British, French and Russian to secure the air cover for our forces; if we had air cover we would have averted what had happened," Maliki said.

Iraq have been witnessing its worst security conditions that began more than two weeks ago when armed Sunni insurgents, spearheaded by ISIL, launched a surprise offensive that led to the debacle of Iraqi security forces, and the fallen of a large part of the country's northern and western territories.

[Source: Xinhua, Baghdad, 29Jun14]

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