Airstrikes hit IS-held positions in Tikrit

Airstrikes hit IS-held positions in Tikrit
In the second day of the Iraqi army's offensive to retake Tikrit, Islamic State forces appear to have repelled a ground offensive but they have come under intensive air and artillery bombardment.
3 min read
03 March, 2015
The Iraqi army is trying to wear IS forces defending Tikrit down [AFP]
The Iraqi military campaign to re-capture the northern town of Tikrit from the Islamic State group (IS, formerly known as Isis) is now in its second day. The campaign has intensified its airstrikes and shelling of the city after a ground attack had limited success on the operation's opening day.

Despite the well-bolstered forces involved, attacking from three directions, the Baghdad-allied forces have so far failed to advance beyond the minefields laid around the city by IS fighters.

A military official in the Sixth Armoured Division, who wished to remain anonymous, said Iraqi forces and supporting militias had advanced in some areas near Tikrit and retreated in others.

The IS cutthroats and the cotton candy professor. Read more.

"There have been casualities in the ranks of IS fighters because of aerial and artillery bombardment, and we have also sustained casualties, due to the traps laid by IS," he said.

The officer told al-Araby al-Jadeed that the most important achievement of the campaign thus far was that IS supply lines between Tikrit and Mosul had been cut, and the city was now completely surrounded.

There have been casualities in the ranks of IS fighters... and we have also sustained casualties
- Iraqi military official

"We have also been able to destroy two IS camps, one of which was located in the palace of former president Saddam Hussein," he added.

The officer denied that Iraqi forces had entered al-Tin or al-Qadisiyyah neighbourhoods, and called on people "not to spread inaccurate information that might do more harm than good".

Civilian casualties

"Nine civilians have been killed, including three children, due to the heavy shelling of the city yesterday and this morning," a resident told al-Araby.

Ahmed Khaled, one of the besieged residents inside Tikrit, speaking to al-Araby via Skype, called on officials to evacuate them from the city.

"We want to leave. We are slowly dying. We buried nine people today and we might be buried tomorrow.

The IS does not have mercy on us and neither do the attackers. We are surrounded.
- Ahmed Khaled

"Snipers are everywhere and whoever tries to leave will be killed. The IS does not have mercy on us and neither do the attackers. We are surrounded."

The commander of the special operations unit, Mahdi Abdullah, denied the reports of a change in plans.

Abdullah told al-Araby that the plan had been successful so far.

"We will force them into a war of attrition through which we will drain their resources and power before launching a wide-scale attack, regardless of the time it takes to complete the operation."

Meanwhile, eyewitnesses told al-Araby that battles around Tikrit had become intermittent, while airstrikes and shelling have continued, IS was engaging with the attacking forces when they come within two kilometres.

"The bombardment is continuous and the explosions from inside Tikrit can be heard from outside the city, while hundreds of residents have gathered close to the city trying to get news of their relatives trapped inside."

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.