Iraqi army fails to retake Tikrit from Islamic State
The Iraqi army has been stalled in its attempts to recapture Tikrit from Islamic State militants, with IS still said to be in full control of the symbolic city.
According to various media reports, Iraqi troops marched on the city with helicopter gunships, mortar and artillery on Tuesday but came under heavy fire from IS militants, who repelled their assault.
Residents in Tikrit, 160km north of Baghdad, told UK’s The Times newspaper that IS had captured two tanks and a number of armoured vehicles as they fought back the Iraqi army assault, making this the latest weapons cache to be seized from Iraqi forces by the militants.
Tuesday’s assault was the army’s third attempt to retake Tikrit although commanders have since vowed to fight on.
A "slow and gradual" push to retake areas around Tikrit is under way, Iraqi army spokesman, Lt Gen Qassim al-Moussawi explained in a televised address.
"There are still a lot of challenges and difficulties ahead of us,” Moussawi said. “The war needs time, but we are determined to annihilate the IS and to liberate all the areas they occupy even if we suffer heavy causalities, because we have no other choice."
The attack come a day after Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, backed by Iraqi special forces and US fighter jets, won back control of Mosul Dam from IS after a few days of heavy fighting.
US President Obama praised the operation to retake Mosul dam as a “major step forward”, but also urged Baghdad to speed up the formation of an inclusive government because “the wolf is at the door”.
IS has since striven to retaliate for the strikes and on Tuesday released a video apparently showing the execution a US journalist James Foley in Syria. In the video the group, said it was carrying out the killing in response to the US intervention in Iraq.