Iraq state forces have retreated from the northern Iraqi city of Tikrit, held by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants, after a renewed effort to take back the city was met with heavy opposition, according to a soldier who fought in the operation on Wednesday.
Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) along with Shiite volunteer fighters were forced to retreat at dusk on Tuesday to a command post 2.5 miles south after taking heavy mortar bombardment and sniper fire, the source said.
“IS (Islamic State) deployed captured ISF vehicles in recent assault operation in hostile al-‘Allām tribal area east of Tikrīt,” ISIS crowed on its twitter account.
The attempt to recapture Tikrit, which fell under the black flag of ISIS began two-and-a-half weeks ago, Reuters reported,
No violence was reported in Tikrit on Wednesday morning, according to residents.
Tikrit lies 160 km (100 miles) north of Baghdad. It is home to loyalists of the former dictator Saddam Hussein and ex-army officers who united with ISIS to occupy large swathes of north and west Iraq last month.
The military launched its assault from the village of Ajwa, 8km south of the city, and the initial firefight on Tuesday happened in the southern stretches of the city. The national army recaptured Ajwa, the birthplace of Saddam Hussein, on the night of July 3, and has been attempting to drive north since.
The Islamic State holds authority over much of the territory immediately to the north of the city. The group posted photos on an associated Twitter feed late Tuesday of what it called “the Tikrit battle” of dead Jihadis from the battle that it referred to as “martyrs” and of tanks and trucks with mounted machine guns flying the trademark black and white Islamist flag, according to Reuters.
ISIS’ media account on Twitter concluded Tuesday night, “Islamic State crush Maliki army in near Tikrit and shot down 2 helicopters, and gained many war spoils.”