Iraq sends 27,000 troops to retake Tikrit from ISIL
WASHINGTON // Iraq has sent 27,000 troops in a major assault to retake the city of Tikrit from ISIL.
Shiite militias, police and soldiers will also try to liberate other areas in Salahuddin province.
ISIL routed the military’s northern command to capture Mosul, the north’s biggest city, in June, and Tikrit fell soon after.
“We are proud to witness the cooperation between security forces, paramilitary forces and the tribes of these areas,” Iraqi prime minister Haidar Al Abadi said on Sunday night.
“Daesh is not threatening the security of Iraq but threatening the security of the world,” he added, referring to the group by an Arabic acronym.
Tikrit is the hometown of ousted president Saddam Hussein, who was executed in 2006, three years after the US-led invasion to topple him.
Daoud Salman, a Tikrit resident, said Iraqi forces had started to shell the city, 150 kilometres north of Baghdad.
The troops “are trying to enter the city from different directions”, Mr Salman said.
Meanwhile, ISIL yesterday freed at least 19 Christians who were among more than 220 taken captive in north-eastern Syria last week, activists said.
The fate of the more than 200 other Assyrian Christians is unclear. They were captured from villages along the Khabur River in Syria’s Hassakeh province.
* Bloomberg News and Associated Press
Updated: March 1, 2015 04:00 AM