BAGHDAD – Iraqi forces launched a broad military operation on Monday to oust the jihadist Islamic State north of the Saladin province and recover its capital, Tikrit.
Military sources told Efe that at 05:00 local time (02:00 GMT), the regular troops, backed by pro-government militia, initiated their offensive from five areas in the region north of Baghdad.
The campaign was organized on Sunday by the Prime Minister and Commander General of the Armed Forces, Haidar al-Abadi, who met with provincial leaders and security chiefs in Samarra, the second largest city of Saladin.
Saladin is a Sunni majority province partially under IS jihadist control since last June, and has an added symbolic value because it was the birthplace of the late dictator Saddam Hussein.
According to sources, the first axis of attack came from Samarra to al-Dur, the birthplace of Saddam’s deputy, Ezzat Ibrahim al-Douri.
The second attack area covers the road linking the Speicher air base, where IS has executed dozens of Iraqi soldiers for months, near the city of Tikrit.
Other objectives of the operation of Saladin are the cities of al-Alam and al-Fatah.
So far, the Iraqi army has recovered the al-Qadisiya district north of Tikrit, areas north of Samarra and also in the town of al-Dur.
Late last year, the Iraqi forces conducted a major offensive in southern Saladin, and gained control of it in early January.
Since then, they had been gathering troops in Samarra to prepare for the major offensive push on Monday.