Iraqi Army Launches Operation To Retake Tikrit

Iraqi vehicle -- Tikrit
An abandoned Iraqi security forces vehicle is pictured on a road in Tikrit, which was overrun by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), June 11, 2014. Iraqi government troops are now trying to retake Saddam Hussein's hometown.

The Iraqi army, joined by Shiite militias, launched a military offensive on Tuesday to reclaim Tikrit from Sunni militants aligned with the Islamic State who have held Saddam Hussein’s hometown since the middle of June.

The assault began at dawn on Tuesday with ground troops backed by air support, Iraq’s defense ministry told Reuters. They were fighting militants with the Islamic State, the al-Qaeda splinter group formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, which claimed it formed a caliphate and named its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, as Caliph Ibrahim.

Reuters said that if the Iraqi military offensive is successful and Tikrit is retaken, Saddam Hussein’s hometown would be the first city to return to the government’s control after the Islamic State made wide territorial gains last month.

Iraqi state television, citing security forces, claimed government troops and Shiite militias were in “complete control” of Tikrit after flushing out the Sunni militants, Al Jazeera reported. Iraqi officials told the media outlet they were “very confident” about the claims made by state television.

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