Tikrit offensive: Iraq mounts aerial assault on ISIL

Published: June 27, 2014
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A member of Iraqi security forces stands guard. PHOTO: REUTERS

A member of Iraqi security forces stands guard. PHOTO: REUTERS

BAGHDAD: 

Iraqi forces launched a helicopter-borne assault on Thursday aimed at opening the way to retaking militant-held Tikrit, while the autonomous Kurdish region further staked its claim to the disputed city of Kirkuk.

Iraqi forces swooped into Tikrit by helicopter, taking control of a strategically located university after clashes with militants, officials said. Later on Thursday, a suicide bomb in Baghdad killed 19 people.

Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki conceded that political measures are needed alongside military action to repel an insurgent offensive that is threatening to tear Iraq apart. He spoke as British Foreign Secretary William Hague urged Iraqi leaders to unite in the face of the onslaught, led by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), that has killed nearly 1,100 people and displaced more than half a million more.

“We should proceed in two parallel tracks,” Maliki’s office said he told Hague, who is on a surprise visit to Iraq.

In an interview with the BBC, Maliki said the Syrian air force had carried out strikes against militants on the Syrian side of the al Qaim border crossing, controlled by ISIL. He added that Iraq had purchased several fighter jets from Belarus and Russia.

The premier said Baghdad had not requested the Syrian strikes, but he ‘welcomed’ any such move against the ISIL-led militants.

The New York Times reported that Iran is flying surveillance drones over Iraq and sending military equipment to help Baghdad. Iraq appealed for US air strikes against the militants, but Washington has so far offered only up to 300 military advisers.

Meanwhile, another 50 US special operations forces arrived in Baghdad under the newly appointed command of a two-star general as the US military steadily ramps up an advisory mission aimed at helping Iraq battle back militants, the Pentagon said on Thursday.

Israel offers help

In an unprecedented move, Israel has offered to help Arab states over the Iraq crisis. It offered to help moderate Arab countries threatened by a lightning offensive by ISIL, as the country’s top diplomat met with US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Kerry at a meeting in Paris that “the militants currently operating in Iraq will try to challenge the stability in the entire Gulf region, first of all in Kuwait,” a statement from his office said.

Defending shrines

Thousands of Muslims in India also signed up to defend Iraq’s holy shrines and, if need be, fight the militants. These Indian Muslims have filled out forms, complete with passport-size photographs and photocopied identification documents, to travel to Iraq. Leaders of a religious organisation spearheading the effort said they might march to the Iraqi embassy in New Delhi to deliver the forms.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 27th, 2014.

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Reader Comments (3)

  • Sonya
    Jun 27, 2014 - 12:20PM

    Although different reports tell us that Iraqi army and the people will fix ISIS once for ever and time will never come when the shrines are in danger because it is NOT 1806 and 1925 – but to show solidarity with Iraqi nation similar efforts (as that of India) must be done by Pakistani shia and non-shia organizations to build up volunteers to protect Islamic legacy and the shrines. Pakistan being a victim of Talibans and Al-Qaeda linked terrorists can also offer help to Iraqi Government.

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  • BCCI
    Jun 27, 2014 - 1:34PM

    This is getting more and more interesting..We desperately need a TWIST in the Tale!!!! Go Israel!!

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  • jami
    Jun 27, 2014 - 3:24PM

    What help has Israel offered? Haven’t seen this news anywhere else.

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