The Iraqi government launched a heavy offensive on Tikrit, the hometown of the late dictator Saddam Hussein and one of the early wins by the Sunni insurgent group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
The Associated Press reports the Iraqi government moved in on Saturday with ground troops, tanks and helicopters. The wire service adds:
“The predominantly Sunni city, a hotbed of antipathy toward Iraq’s Shiite-led government, is one of two major urban centers that fell to insurgents earlier this month during their lightning offensive across the country’s north and west.
“The insurgents appeared to have repelled the military’s initial push for Tikrit, and remained in control of the city on Sunday, but clashes were taking place in the northern neighborhood of Qadissiyah, two residents reached by telephone said.”
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports reinforcements have been airdropped around the city and “thousands more are said to be on their way.” An Iraqi military spokesman told the broadcaster the U.S. is considering possible airstrike targets.
If the Iraqi military wins this fight, ABC adds, it would “mark a turnaround in the fortunes of the Iraqi security forces who were routed earlier this month or deserted their posts.”
Meanwhile, the BBC reports that Iraq said it had received five Russian fighter jets to help repel ISIS.
“Iraqi security officials said five secondhand Sukhoi attack aircraft would enter service within a few days, and that more were on their way,” the BBC reports.