Iraq army advances on IS-held Tikrit city

Iraqi troops and Shia militias battled IS yesterday south of the militant-held city of Tikrit, though roadside bombs and suicide attacks slowed their advance on Saddam Hussein’s hometown.

The battle for Tikrit, a strategic city on the Tigris River, likely will be won or lost on allied Iraqi forces’ ability to counter the bombs of IS. Such explosives were a mainstay of al-Qaeda in Iraq, the predecessor of IS, as it fought American forces after their 2003 invasion.

“Tikrit has been besieged from three directions, from the north, west and south, but what has remained only from the eastern side,” said Brigadier General Saad Maan Ibrahim, an Interior Ministry spokesman. “The explosive experts were able to tackle so many bombs and car bombs.”

Ibrahim offered no specifics, though previous reports suggest extremists of IS, which holds both a third of Iraq and neighbouring Syria in its self-declared caliphate, have littered major roadways and routes with mines.

Yesterday was the second day of the Iraqi advance on Tikrit, with its soldiers supported by Iranian-backed Shia militias and advisers, along with some Sunni tribal fighters who reject the IS group.


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