The Guardian reports: Islamic State (Isis) fighters have repelled an Iraqi army attempt to retake Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit in a battle that underlines the group’s continuing strength despite losing control of the strategically important Mosul dam.
Boosted by Monday’s recapture of the dam, Iraqi forces launched an assault on Tikrit, 80 miles (130km) north of Baghdad, with helicopter gunships and mortar and artillery fire. When troops entered the town from near its main hospital they faced heavy machine gun and mortar fire from the militants, forcing the military to pull back. It was the third failed attempt to retake Tikrit since it fell to Isis fighters more than two months ago, when Isis made sweeping gains in five provinces. Since then Tikrit has been controlled by Sunni militants and former members of Saddam’s Ba’ath party.
A local official and a resident told Associated Press that the clashes began early on Tuesday on the south-western outskirts of the city. Isis landmines and snipers prevented Iraqi forces reaching the town from the west, officials told Reuters. By early afternoon residents in central Tikrit told the agency Isis fighters were firmly in control. [Continue reading…]