29 Jun 2014

Iraq army 'routs rebels in Tikrit'

9:07 am on 29 June 2014

Iraq's army has routed Sunni militants in a major offensive on the northern city of Tikrit, state media say.

State television said the governor's HQ had been recaptured and 60 fighters from the Isis militant group killed.

A spokesman for the rebels confirmed heavy fighting but implied the attack had failed, saying they were pursuing what was left of the army offensive.

The rebels control large swathes of the north and west after lightning raids that captured the second city, Mosul.

On Saturday, thousands of Iraqi troops backed by tanks and air power attacked Tikrit from four directions, state TV said.

It said there had been complete success in clearing Isis from the city, with some militant commanders among the 60 killed. It said the other insurgents there had fled.

Tikrit fell on 11 June to rebels of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis).

Iraqi Shiite fighters secure an area west of Najaf.

Iraqi Shiite fighters secure an area west of Najaf. Photo: AFP

The BBC reports that since then, the government has been threatening a counter-offensive from the next town down the Tigris river - Samarra - where the insurgents were finally checked.

State TV said preparations were now being made to move north towards Mosul.

The Iraqi soldiers are being supported in the offensive by allied Sunni tribesmen and Shia militias.

The attack on Tikrit included air strikes that targeted insurgents at a university campus to the north of the city.

Soldiers had captured part of the campus in a helicopter operation on Friday.

Army spokesman Lt-Gen Sabah Fatlawi had warned Isis fighters they "now have two choices - flee or be killed".