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Iraq begins effort to recapture Tikrit

Other developments

• Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called the Iraq conflict a “showdown between humanity and barbarian savagery” and criticized Western media for portraying it as a war between Shiite and Sunni Muslims.

• Saudi King Abdullah pledged in talks with Secretary of State John Kerry to use his influence to encourage Sunni Muslims to join a new, more inclusive Iraqi government to better combat Islamist insurgents, a senior American official said.

• Demonstrators angry with Jordan's government have unfurled in the desert city of Maan the black battle flags of the ISIS terrorists, stirring fears that support for the group is growing in Jordan. The demonstrations have been the first public displays of support for ISIS in the country. King Abdullah's government has put the country's Border Guard on alert and reinforced troops along its 125-mile frontier with Iraq.

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By Reuters
Saturday, June 28, 2014, 6:51 p.m.
 

BAGHDAD — Iraqi government forces backed by helicopter gunships began an offensive on Saturday to retake the northern city of Tikrit from Sunni Islamist militants while party leaders pursued talks that could end Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's divisive rule.

Politicians in Baghdad and world powers warn that unless security forces recover cities lost to the jihadi insurgents and form a government that can bring Iraq's estranged communities together, the country could rip apart along sectarian lines and menace the wider Middle East.

On the battlefield, Iraqi troops were trying to advance on Tikrit from the direction of Samarra to the south, which has become the military's line in the sand against a militant advance southward toward Baghdad.

Iraqi special forces have snipers inside Tikrit University who were dropped by air there in a bold operation on Thursday. Helicopter gunships fired at targets in Tikrit on Saturday, and Islamic State of Iraq and Syria fighters abandoned Tikrit's governorate building, security sources said. More government troops had been air-dropped in a pocket just north of the city.

Iraqi military spokesman Qassim Atta told reporters in Baghdad that 29 “terrorists” were killed on Friday in Tikrit and militant commanders were struggling because “their morale has started to collapse.”

However, the militants were showing resilience and enjoyed the backing of some Sunni tribes, as well as former ruling Baathists from the era of late Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein — whose hometown was Tikrit — who have been alienated from Maliki's government.

 

 
 


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