Battle rages on for Iraq′s Tikrit | News | DW | 29.06.2014
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Battle rages on for Iraq's Tikrit

Iraqi government forces are continuing a bid to retake the northern city of Tikrit from Sunni militants. Sketchy reports however say rebels have blunted that push. Iraq's military has acquired five Russian fighter jets.

Iraqi forces on Sunday continuing their bid to wrest back the city of Tikrit from Sunni fighters led by the jihadist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The military began its campaign to retake Tikrit, 140 km (87 miles) from the capital, Baghdad, on Saturday with an assault by ground troops backed by tanks and helicopters.

The government appeared eager to claim success in the city after weeks of demoralizing defeats by ISIS and its Sunni allies, who seized large swaths of northern and western Iraq earlier in June.

Military spokesman Qassim al-Moussawi told reporters on Sunday that the military controlled the University of Tikrit, where troops brought by helicopter established a bridgehead two days ago.

However, an anonymous provincial official told AP news agency that the insurgents retained control of most of the city.

Residents reached by phone said the insurgents had repelled the military's initial push, with clashes focused on the northern neighborhood of Qadissiyah.

The various accounts could not be independently confirmed.

More air power

The Iraqi governments military efforts have meanwhile received a boost in the form of five Sukhoi Su-25 fighter jets bought second-hand from Russia.

The defense ministry said the delivery would "enhance the combat capability of the Iraqi Air Force in eliminating terrorism."

Air force commander Lt. Gen. Anwar Hama Amin said the jets would "enter service within a few days ... in order to support the units and to fight the terrorist ISIS organization."

The planes could be deployed in the fight for Tikrit.

Iraq in meltdown?

The swift advances made by ISIS and its supporters in past weeks have raised fears that Iraq may fall apart along sectarian and ethnic lines.

The growing violence in the country during the past year has been largely attributed to the dissatisfaction of Iraq's Sunni minority with the Shiite-led government under Nouri al-Maliki, who has been accused of monopolizing power and alienating both Sunnis and Kurds.

Security sweeps and mass arrests carried out by the government have aggravated Sunni resentment of what they see as discrimination.

tj/ipj (dpa, AP)

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