Iraq's Abadi announces operation to liberate Salahuddin, Baiji

Iraq's Abadi announces operation to liberate Salahuddin, Baiji
Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi announced the start of the second phase of the operation to liberate Salahuddin province from Islamic State militants.
2 min read
13 October, 2015
Iraqi troops recaptured Salahuddin's provincial capital, Tikrit, in April [Getty]
Iraq's prime minister has announced the launch of the second phase of a large-scale military operation to drive Islamic State group (IS, formerly ISIS) militants out of the central Salahuddin province.

A statement from Haider al-Abadi's office late Monday said the operation, codenamed Labeik ya Rasool Allah will aim "to liberate the whole of Salahuddin province, including the Baiji refinery," the country's largest.

Abadi's statement called for "uniting all [military] efforts" to defeat IS, including the army, the federal police, the Counter-Terrorism Bureau, the Popular Mobilisation and the volunteers.

"No flag other than the Iraqi flag should be raised, and it should flutter over every spot of Iraq's territories," Abadi added.

Iraqi troops backed by US airstrikes and Shia and Sunni militias recaptured Salahuddin's provincial capital, Tikrit, in April, but their efforts have since stalled. Iraqi and US officials have said the extreme summer heat caused setbacks.  

Iraq said on Sunday its air force had hit an Islamic State meeting in a town in western Iraq and also struck a convoy that was carrying Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to the meeting.

But Baghdadi did not appear to be among the group's eight senior figures killed in an air strike on the meeting in Karabla, a town in Iraq's Anbar province near the Syrian border. 

Baghdad has mounted an offensive against Islamic State and former Baathists once loyal to Saddam Hussein to retake territory in Iraq's Sunni heartland captured by jihadists last summer.

In April, the Iraqi leader vowed to reclaim the entire country from militants after retaking Tikrit from the Islamic State group.