Iraq launches operation to retake Tikrit from Islamic State

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Tikrit retake - iraq - updated to include homecoming on june 23
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Iraq launches operation to retake Tikrit from Islamic State
KIRKUK, IRAQ - JUNE 18: People are seen at a checkpoint as they leave Kirkuk for their homes in Tikrit which has been taken back from Daesh, in Kirkuk, Iraq on June 18, 2015. (Photo by Ali Mukarrem Garip/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
KIRKUK, IRAQ - JUNE 18: Children flash victory signs at a checkpoint as they leave Kirkuk for their homes in Tikrit which has been taken back from Daesh, in Kirkuk, Iraq on June 18, 2015. (Photo by Ali Mukarrem Garip/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
KIRKUK, IRAQ - JUNE 18: People are seen at a checkpoint as they leave Kirkuk for their homes in Tikrit which has been taken back from Daesh, in Kirkuk, Iraq on June 18, 2015. (Photo by Ali Mukarrem Garip/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
KIRKUK, IRAQ - JUNE 18: People are seen at a checkpoint as they leave Kirkuk for their homes in Tikrit which has been taken back from Daesh, in Kirkuk, Iraq on June 18, 2015. (Photo by Ali Mukarrem Garip/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
KIRKUK, IRAQ - JUNE 18: People are seen at a checkpoint as they leave Kirkuk for their homes in Tikrit which has been taken back from Daesh, in Kirkuk, Iraq on June 18, 2015. (Photo by Ali Mukarrem Garip/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
KIRKUK, IRAQ - JUNE 18: People are seen at a checkpoint as they leave Kirkuk for their homes in Tikrit which has been taken back from Daesh, in Kirkuk, Iraq on June 18, 2015. (Photo by Ali Mukarrem Garip/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
KIRKUK, IRAQ - JUNE 18: Children flash victory signs at a checkpoint as they leave Kirkuk for their homes in Tikrit which has been taken back from Daesh, in Kirkuk, Iraq on June 18, 2015. (Photo by Ali Mukarrem Garip/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
KIRKUK, IRAQ - JUNE 18: People are seen at a checkpoint as they leave Kirkuk for their homes in Tikrit which has been taken back from Daesh, in Kirkuk, Iraq on June 18, 2015. (Photo by Ali Mukarrem Garip/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A displaced Iraqi family waits inside their vehicle as they get ready to return home to the city of Tikrit, on June 18, 2015 at a gathering area on the outskirts of the northern city of Kirkuk. Iraqi forces retook the city of Tikrit from the Islamic State jihadist group in April, in Baghdad's biggest victory to date over militants who overran large parts of the country last June. AFP PHOTO / MARWAN IBRAHIM (Photo credit should read MARWAN IBRAHIM/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi Shiite fighters and members of Iraq's Popular Mobilisation, pray at a burial site believed to hold victims of a June massacre in which hundreds of army cadets were executed by the Islamic State (IS) group, in the city of Tikrit, on April 4, 2015. The Speicher massacre -- named after the nearby base from which the mostly Shiite recruits were abducted -- stoked widespread anger against IS and helped rally support to battle the jihadists. AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi Shiite fighters and members of Iraq's Popular Mobilisation, inspect a burial site believed to hold victims of a June massacre in which hundreds of army cadets were executed by the Islamic State (IS) group, in the city of Tikrit, on April 4, 2015. The Speicher massacre -- named after the nearby base from which the mostly Shiite recruits were abducted -- stoked widespread anger against IS and helped rally support to battle the jihadists. AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
Shiite fighters from the Popular Mobilisation units enter the presidential palace in Tikrit on April 4, 2015 after a statement by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordering Iraqi forces to oppose vandalism in the city and protect civilians. Abadi also called on 'forces located in Tikrit to arrest everyone who carries out such acts, and preserve properties and facilities in Salaheddin province,' of which Tikrit is the capital. AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi security forces patrol the streets of Tikrit on April 4, 2015 after a statement by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordering Iraqi forces to oppose vandalism in the city and protect civilians. Abadi also called on 'forces located in Tikrit to arrest everyone who carries out such acts, and preserve properties and facilities in Salaheddin province,' of which Tikrit is the capital. AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi government forces fire a locally made rocket from a position on the southern outskirts of Tikrit, on March 30, 2015, during a military operation to retake the city from Islamic State (IS) group jihadists. Retaking Tikrit, where jihadists have rigged streets and buildings with explosives, will require 'major sacrifices' on the part of Iraqi forces, a senior intelligence officer said. AFP PHOTO/AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi government forces fire a locally made rocket from a position on the southern outskirts of Tikrit, on March 30, 2015, during a military operation to retake the city from Islamic State (IS) group jihadists. Retaking Tikrit, where jihadists have rigged streets and buildings with explosives, will require 'major sacrifices' on the part of Iraqi forces, a senior intelligence officer said. AFP PHOTO/AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi government forces keep watch from a position on the southern outskirts of Tikrit, on March 30, 2015, during a military operation to retake the city from Islamic State (IS) group jihadists. Retaking Tikrit, where jihadists have rigged streets and buildings with explosives, will require 'major sacrifices' on the part of Iraqi forces, a senior intelligence officer said. AFP PHOTO/AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi government forces keep watch from a position on the southern outskirts of Tikrit, on March 30, 2015, during a military operation to retake the city from Islamic State (IS) group jihadists. Retaking Tikrit, where jihadists have rigged streets and buildings with explosives, will require 'major sacrifices' on the part of Iraqi forces, a senior intelligence officer said. AFP PHOTO/AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi security forces gather in the southern entrance of the city of Tikrit on March 29, 2015 during a military operation to retake the northern Iraqi city from Islamic State (IS) group jihadists. IS spearheaded a sweeping offensive last June that overran much of Iraq's Sunni Arab heartland, and the operation to retake Tikrit is Baghdad's largest to date against the militants. AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
A member of the Iraqi security forces stands inside a damaged house in the southern entrance of the city of Tikrit on March 29, 2015 during a military operation to retake the northern Iraqi city from Islamic State (IS) group jihadists. IS spearheaded a sweeping offensive last June that overran much of Iraq's Sunni Arab heartland, and the operation to retake Tikrit is Baghdad's largest to date against the militants. AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi security forces gather in the southern entrance of the city of Tikrit on March 29, 2015 during a military operation to retake the northern Iraqi city from Islamic State (IS) group jihadists. IS spearheaded a sweeping offensive last June that overran much of Iraq's Sunni Arab heartland, and the operation to retake Tikrit is Baghdad's largest to date against the militants. AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi security forces gather next to a damaged house in the southern entrance of the city of Tikrit on March 29, 2015 during a military operation to retake the northern Iraqi city from Islamic State (IS) group jihadists. IS spearheaded a sweeping offensive last June that overran much of Iraq's Sunni Arab heartland, and the operation to retake Tikrit is Baghdad's largest to date against the militants. AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi Shiite fighters of the government-controlled Popular Mobilisation units launch rockets towards Islamic state (IS) group's fighters holed up in the centre of the city of Tikrit on March 12, 2015 during a military operation to retake the city led from a suburb, west of the city. Thousands of Iraqi troops and militiamen laid siege to jihadist fighters holed up in Tikrit, wary of rushing into streets littered with bombs and infested with snipers. Tikrit, the capital Salaheddin province, is located 160 kms north of Baghdad. AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi Shiite fighters of the government-controlled Popular Mobilisation units wait as they take a position in a suburb west of the city of Tikrit on March 12, 2015 during a military operation to retake the city from the Islamic state (IS) group. Thousands of Iraqi troops and militiamen laid siege to jihadist fighters holed up in Tikrit, wary of rushing into streets littered with bombs and infested with snipers. Tikrit, the capital Salaheddin province, is located 160 kms north of Baghdad. AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi Shiite fighters of the government-controlled Popular Mobilisation units inspect a vehicle that was damaged in a car bomb targeting pro-government forces on March 12, 2015 in a suburb west of the city of Tikrit during a military operation to retake the city from the Islamic state (IS) group. Thousands of Iraqi troops and militiamen laid siege to jihadist fighters holed up in Tikrit, wary of rushing into streets littered with bombs and infested with snipers. Tikrit, the capital Salaheddin province, is located 160 kms north of Baghdad. AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi Shiite fighters of the government-controlled Popular Mobilisation units launch rockets towards Islamic state (IS) group's fighters holed up in the centre of the city of Tikrit on March 12, 2015 during a military operation to retake the city led from its western outskirt. Thousands of Iraqi troops and militiamen laid siege to jihadist fighters holed up in Tikrit, wary of rushing into streets littered with bombs and infested with snipers. Tikrit, the capital Salaheddin province, is located 160 kms north of Baghdad. AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi fighters of the government-controlled Popular Mobilisation units flash the sign of victory as they take part in a military operation on the western outskirts of the Iraqi city of Tikrit, 160 kms north of Baghdad, to retake control of the city from jihadists of the Islamic state (IS) group, on March 11 2015. The city, which is the home town of former president Saddam Hussein, is the toughest target for the government troops and allied militias that started winning back lost ground last year. AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi fighters of the government-controlled Popular Mobilisation advance into Tikrit, 160 kms north of Baghdad, to regain the city from jihadists from the Islamic state (IS) group, on March 11, 2015. Iraqi forces entered a northern neighbourhood of Tikrit, marking a new stage in the operation launched 10 days ago to wrest the city back from jihadists, army officers said . AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi pro-government fighters celebrate as they advance into Tikrit, 160 kms north of Baghdad, during a military operation to regain the city from jihadists from the Islamic state (IS) group, on March 11, 2015. Iraqi forces entered a northern neighbourhood of Tikrit, marking a new stage in the operation launched 10 days ago to wrest the city back from jihadists, army officers said . AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi government forces take part in a military operation to retake control of Tikrit, 160 kms north of Baghdad, from jihadists from the Islamic state (IS) group, on March 11, 2015. Iraqi forces entered a northern neighbourhood of Tikrit, marking a new stage in the operation launched 10 days ago to wrest the city back from jihadists, army officers said. AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi fighters of the government-controlled Popular Mobilisation units take part in a military operation to take control of Tikrit, 160 kms north of Baghdad, from jihadists from the Islamic state (IS) group, on March 11 2015. The city, which is the home town of former president Saddam Hussein, is the toughest target for the government troops and allied militias that started winning back lost ground last year. AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken from the village of Awja on the outskirts of the city of Tikrit on March 5, 2015, shows a general view of the city of Tikrit. Some 30,000 Iraqi security forces members and allied fighters launched an operation to retake Tikrit, the largest of its kind since Islamic State (IS) group forces overran swathes of territory last June. AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi government forces and allied militias gesture as they take position in the northern part of Diyala province, bordering Salaheddin province, as they take part in an assault to retake the city of Tikrit from jihadists of the Islamic State (IS) group, on March 4, 2015. Some 30,000 Iraqi troops and militia backed by aircraft pounded jihadists in and around Tikrit in the biggest offensive yet to retake one of the Islamic State group's main strongholds. Iraqi forces tried and failed several times to wrest back Tikrit, a Sunni Arab city on the Tigris river about 160 kilometres (100 miles) north of Baghdad. AFP PHOTO / YOUNIS AL-BAYATI (Photo credit should read YOUNIS AL-BAYATI/AFP/Getty Images)
A member of the Popular Mobilisation unit monitors from his position in the village of Awja on the outskirts of the city of Tikrit on March 5, 2015, movements Islamic State (IS) group jihadists in the city of Tikrit. Some 30,000 Iraqi security forces members and allied fighters launched an operation to retake Tikrit, the largest of its kind since Islamic State (IS) group forces overran swathes of territory last June. AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
A general view shows the northern part of Diyala province, bordering Salaheddin province, as Iraqi government forces and allied militias take part in an assault to retake the city of Tikrit from jihadists of the Islamic State (IS) group, on March 4, 2015. Some 30,000 Iraqi troops and militia backed by aircraft pounded jihadists in and around Tikrit in the biggest offensive yet to retake one of the Islamic State group's main strongholds. Iraqi forces tried and failed several times to wrest back Tikrit, a Sunni Arab city on the Tigris river about 160 kilometres (100 miles) north of Baghdad. AFP PHOTO / YOUNIS AL-BAYATI (Photo credit should read YOUNIS AL-BAYATI/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi government forces and allied militias take position in the northern part of Diyala province, bordering Salaheddin province, as they take part in an assault to retake the city of Tikrit from jihadists of the Islamic State (IS) group, on March 4, 2015. Some 30,000 Iraqi troops and militia backed by aircraft pounded jihadists in and around Tikrit in the biggest offensive yet to retake one of the Islamic State group's main strongholds. Iraqi forces tried and failed several times to wrest back Tikrit, a Sunni Arab city on the Tigris river about 160 kilometres (100 miles) north of Baghdad. AFP PHOTO / YOUNIS AL-BAYATI (Photo credit should read YOUNIS AL-BAYATI/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi government forces and allied militias gesture as they hold the national flag in the northern part of Diyala province, bordering Salaheddin province, as they take part in an assault to retake the city of Tikrit from jihadists of the Islamic State (IS) group, on March 4, 2015. Some 30,000 Iraqi troops and militia backed by aircraft pounded jihadists in and around Tikrit in the biggest offensive yet to retake one of the Islamic State group's main strongholds. Iraqi forces tried and failed several times to wrest back Tikrit, a Sunni Arab city on the Tigris river about 160 kilometres (100 miles) north of Baghdad. AFP PHOTO / YOUNIS AL-BAYATI (Photo credit should read YOUNIS AL-BAYATI/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi security forces and volunteer Shiite fighters, known as the Popular Mobilisation units, gather in the city of Samarra on March 5, 2015, ahead of moving into Tikrit. Some 30,000 Iraqi security forces members and allied fighters launched an operation to retake Tikrit, the largest of its kind since Islamic State (IS) group forces overran swathes of territory last June. AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
An Iraqi volunteer Shiite fighter, a member of what is known as the Popular Mobilisation units, gathers in the city of Samarra on March 5, 2015, ahead of moving into Tikrit. Some 30,000 Iraqi security forces members and allied fighters launched an operation to retake Tikrit, the largest of its kind since Islamic State (IS) group forces overran swathes of territory last June. AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
SALADIN, IRAQ - MARCH 3: Iraqi security forces and Shia militias are seen during an operation against to recapture Tikrit city which is under control of Daesh (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), in Saladin, Iraq, on March 3, 2015. (Photo by Ali Mohammed/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
TIKRIT, IRAQ - MARCH 05: Some of the Iraqi security forces and Shia militias rest as others stage attacks against Daesh (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) members with heavy and light weapons to recapture the Tikrit City, Iraq on March 05, 2015. (Photo by Ali Mohammed/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SALADIN, IRAQ - MARCH 2 : Iraqi Army and volunteer fighters carry an injured man as they launch an operation in Saladin Governorate against Daesh (Islamic State of Iraq and Levant) on March 2, 2015. (Photo by Ali Mohammed/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Members of the Iraqi security forces heading from the city of Samarra north of Baghdad drive towards al-Dawr area south of Tikrit to launch an assault against the Islamic State group (IS) on February 28, 2015. Government forces have attempted and failed several times to wrest back Tikrit -- the hometown of former president Saddam Hussein -- since losing it to IS in June last year. AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of the Iraqi security forces heading from the city of Samarra north of Baghdad drive towards al-Dawr area south of Tikrit to launch an assault against the Islamic State group (IS) on February 28, 2015. Government forces have attempted and failed several times to wrest back Tikrit -- the hometown of former president Saddam Hussein -- since losing it to IS in June last year. AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of the Iraqi security forces from the city of Samarra north of Baghdad head towards al-Dawr area south of Tikrit to launch an assault against the Islamic State group (IS) on February 28, 2015. Government forces have attempted and failed several times to wrest back Tikrit -- the hometown of former president Saddam Hussein -- since losing it to IS in June last year. AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
A Volunteer Shiite fighter, from the Popular Mobilisation units who support the Iraqi government forces in the combat against the Islamic State (IS) group, rests a gun on his lap in the village of Awaynat near the Iraqi city of Tikrit on February 28, 2015. Government forces have attempted and failed several times to wrest back Tikrit -- the hometown of former president Saddam Hussein -- since losing it to IS in June 2014. AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of the Iraqi security forces from the city of Samarra north of Baghdad flash the sign for victory as they head towards al-Dawr area south of Tikrit to launch an assault against the Islamic State group (IS) on February 28, 2015. Government forces have attempted and failed several times to wrest back Tikrit -- the hometown of former president Saddam Hussein -- since losing it to IS in June last year. AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of the Iraqi security forces from the city of Samarra north of Baghdad flash the sign for victory as they head towards al-Dawr area south of Tikrit to launch an assault against the Islamic State group (IS) on February 28, 2015. Government forces have attempted and failed several times to wrest back Tikrit -- the hometown of former president Saddam Hussein -- since losing it to IS in June last year. AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
Volunteer Shiite fighters, known as the Popular Mobilisation units, who support the Iraqi government forces in the combat against the Islamic State (IS) group prepare a Howitzer artillery canon in the village of Awaynat near the Iraqi city of Tikrit on February 28, 2015. Government forces have attempted and failed several times to wrest back Tikrit -- the hometown of former president Saddam Hussein -- since losing it to IS in June 2014. AFP PHOTO/AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
Volunteer Shiite fighters, known as the Popular Mobilisation units, who support the Iraqi government forces in the combat against the Islamic State (IS) group prepare a Howitzer artillery canon in the village of Awaynat near the Iraqi city of Tikrit on February 28, 2015. Government forces have attempted and failed several times to wrest back Tikrit -- the hometown of former president Saddam Hussein -- since losing it to IS in June 2014. AFP PHOTO/AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
Volunteer Shiite fighters, known as the Popular Mobilisation units, who support the Iraqi government forces in the combat against the Islamic State (IS) group prepare a Howitzer artillery canon in the village of Awaynat near the Iraqi city of Tikrit on February 28, 2015. Government forces have attempted and failed several times to wrest back Tikrit -- the hometown of former president Saddam Hussein -- since losing it to IS in June 2014. AFP PHOTO/AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
Volunteer Shiite fighters, known as the Popular Mobilisation units, who support the Iraqi government forces in the combat against the Islamic State (IS) group fire a Howitzer artillery canon in the village of Awaynat near the city of Tikrit on February 28, 2015. Government forces have attempted and failed several times to wrest back Tikrit -- the hometown of former president Saddam Hussein -- since losing it to IS in June 2014. AFP PHOTO/AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
SALADIN, IRAQ - MARCH 2 : Iraqi Army and volunteer fighters prepare in Saladin Governorate before an operation against Daesh (Islamic State of Iraq and Levant) on March 2, 2015. (Photo by Ali Mohammed/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SALADIN, IRAQ - MARCH 2 : Iraqi Army and volunteer fighters prepare in Saladin Governorate before an operation against Daesh (Islamic State of Iraq and Levant) on March 2, 2015. (Photo by Ali Mohammed/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SALADIN, IRAQ - MARCH 2 : Iraqi Army and volunteer fighters launch an operation in Saladin Governorate against Daesh (Islamic State of Iraq and Levant) on March 2, 2015. (Photo by Ali Mohammed/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SALADIN, IRAQ - MARCH 2 : Iraqi Army and volunteer fighters prepare in Saladin Governorate before an operation against Daesh (Islamic State of Iraq and Levant) on March 2, 2015. (Photo by Ali Mohammed/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SALADIN, IRAQ - MARCH 2 : Iraqi Army and volunteer fighters prepare in Saladin Governorate before an operation against Daesh (Islamic State of Iraq and Levant) on March 2, 2015. (Photo by Ali Mohammed/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SALADIN, IRAQ - MARCH 2 : Iraqi Army and volunteer fighters take position as they launch an operation in Saladin Governorate against Daesh (Islamic State of Iraq and Levant) on March 2, 2015. (Photo by Ali Mohammed/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SALADIN, IRAQ - MARCH 2 : Iraqi Army and volunteer fighters launch an operation in Saladin Governorate against Daesh (Islamic State of Iraq and Levant) on March 2, 2015. (Photo by Ali Mohammed/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SALADIN, IRAQ - MARCH 2 : Iraqi Army and volunteer fighters prepare in Saladin Governorate before an operation against Daesh (Islamic State of Iraq and Levant) on March 2, 2015. (Photo by Ali Mohammed/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SALADIN, IRAQ - MARCH 2 : Iraqi Army and volunteer fighters prepare in Saladin Governorate before an operation against Daesh (Islamic State of Iraq and Levant) on March 2, 2015. (Photo by Ali Mohammed/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SALADIN, IRAQ - MARCH 2 : Iraqi Army and volunteer fighters launch an operation in Saladin Governorate against Daesh (Islamic State of Iraq and Levant) on March 2, 2015. (Photo by Ali Mohammed/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Iraqi government forces and allied militias take position in the northern part of Diyala province, bordering Salaheddin province, as they take part in an assault to retake the city of Tikrit from jihadists of the Islamic State (IS) group, on March 2, 2015. Some 30,000 Iraqi troops and militia backed by aircraft pounded jihadists in and around Tikrit in the biggest offensive yet to retake one of the Islamic State group's main strongholds. Iraqi forces tried and failed several times to wrest back Tikrit, a Sunni Arab city on the Tigris river about 160 kilometres (100 miles) north of Baghdad. AFP PHOTO / YOUNIS AL-BAYATI (Photo credit should read YOUNIS AL-BAYATI/AFP/Getty Images)
SALADIN, IRAQ - MARCH 2 : Iraqi Army and volunteer fighters launch an operation in Saladin Governorate against Daesh (Islamic State of Iraq and Levant) on March 2, 2015. (Photo by Ali Mohammed/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Iraqi government forces and allied militias take position in the northern part of Diyala province, bordering Salaheddin province, as they take part in an assault to retake the city of Tikrit from jihadists of the Islamic State (IS) group, on March 2, 2015. Some 30,000 Iraqi troops and militia backed by aircraft pounded jihadists in and around Tikrit in the biggest offensive yet to retake one of the Islamic State group's main strongholds. Iraqi forces tried and failed several times to wrest back Tikrit, a Sunni Arab city on the Tigris river about 160 kilometres (100 miles) north of Baghdad. AFP PHOTO / YOUNIS AL-BAYATI (Photo credit should read YOUNIS AL-BAYATI/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi government forces and allied militias take position in the northern part of Diyala province, bordering Salaheddin province, as they take part in an assault to retake the city of Tikrit from jihadists of the Islamic State (IS) group, on March 2, 2015. Some 30,000 Iraqi troops and militia backed by aircraft pounded jihadists in and around Tikrit in the biggest offensive yet to retake one of the Islamic State group's main strongholds. Iraqi forces tried and failed several times to wrest back Tikrit, a Sunni Arab city on the Tigris river about 160 kilometres (100 miles) north of Baghdad. AFP PHOTO / YOUNIS AL-BAYATI (Photo credit should read YOUNIS AL-BAYATI/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi government forces and allied militias take position in the northern part of Diyala province, bordering Salaheddin province, as they take part in an assault to retake the city of Tikrit from jihadists of the Islamic State (IS) group, on March 2, 2015. Some 30,000 Iraqi troops and militia backed by aircraft pounded jihadists in and around Tikrit in the biggest offensive yet to retake one of the Islamic State group's main strongholds. Iraqi forces tried and failed several times to wrest back Tikrit, a Sunni Arab city on the Tigris river about 160 kilometres (100 miles) north of Baghdad. AFP PHOTO / YOUNIS AL-BAYATI (Photo credit should read YOUNIS AL-BAYATI/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi government forces and allied militias fire weaponry from a position in the northern part of Diyala province, bordering Salaheddin province, as they take part in an assault to retake the city of Tikrit from jihadists of the Islamic State (IS) group, on March 2, 2015. Some 30,000 Iraqi troops and militia backed by aircraft pounded jihadists in and around Tikrit in the biggest offensive yet to retake one of the Islamic State group's main strongholds. Iraqi forces tried and failed several times to wrest back Tikrit, a Sunni Arab city on the Tigris river about 160 kilometres (100 miles) north of Baghdad. AFP PHOTO / YOUNIS AL-BAYATI (Photo credit should read YOUNIS AL-BAYATI/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi government forces and allied militias take position in the northern part of Diyala province, bordering Salaheddin province, as they take part in an assault to retake the city of Tikrit from jihadists of the Islamic State (IS) group, on March 2, 2015. Some 30,000 Iraqi troops and militia backed by aircraft pounded jihadists in and around Tikrit in the biggest offensive yet to retake one of the Islamic State group's main strongholds. Iraqi forces tried and failed several times to wrest back Tikrit, a Sunni Arab city on the Tigris river about 160 kilometres (100 miles) north of Baghdad. AFP PHOTO / YOUNIS AL-BAYATI (Photo credit should read YOUNIS AL-BAYATI/AFP/Getty Images)
TIKRIT, IRAQ - MARCH 1 : Iraqi Army and volunteer fighters prepare at Sedull Udeyim region before an operation against Daesh (Islamic State of Iraq and Levant) in Tikrit, Iraq on March 1, 2015. (Photo by Ali Mohammed /Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
TIKRIT, IRAQ - MARCH 1 : Iraqi Army and volunteer fighters prepare at Sedull Udeyim region before an operation against Daesh (Islamic State of Iraq and Levant) in Tikrit, Iraq on March 1, 2015. (Photo by Ali Mohammed /Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
TIKRIT, IRAQ - MARCH 1 : Iraqi Army and volunteer fighters prepare at Sedull Udeyim region before an operation against Daesh (Islamic State of Iraq and Levant) in Tikrit, Iraq on March 1, 2015. (Photo by Ali Mohammed /Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
TIKRIT, IRAQ - MARCH 1 : Iraqi Army and volunteer fighters prepare at Sedull Udeyim region before an operation against Daesh (Islamic State of Iraq and Levant) in Tikrit, Iraq on March 1, 2015. (Photo by Ali Mohammed /Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Members of the Iraqi security forces coming from the city of Samarra, north of Baghdad, drive towards al-Dawr area located south of Tikrit to launch an assault against the Islamic State group (IS) on February 28, 2015. Some 30,000 Iraqi troops and militia backed by aircraft pounded jihadist positions in and around Tikrit on March 2, 2015, in the biggest offensive yet to retake one of the Islamic State group's main strongholds. AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of the Iraqi security forces coming from the city of Samarra, north of Baghdad, drive towards al-Dawr area located south of Tikrit to launch an assault against the Islamic State group (IS) on February 28, 2015. Some 30,000 Iraqi troops and militia backed by aircraft pounded jihadist positions in and around Tikrit on March 2, 2015, in the biggest offensive yet to retake one of the Islamic State group's main strongholds. AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
Volunteer Shiite fighters, known as the Popular Mobilisation units, who support the Iraqi government forces in the combat against the Islamic State (IS) group prepare a Howitzer artillery cannon in the village of Awaynat near the city of Tikrit on February 28, 2015. Some 30,000 Iraqi troops and militia backed by aircraft pounded jihadist positions in and around Tikrit on March 2, 2015, in the biggest offensive yet to retake one of the Islamic State group's main strongholds. AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of the Iraqi security forces coming from the city of Samarra, north of Baghdad, drive towards al-Dawr area located south of Tikrit to launch an assault against the Islamic State group (IS) on February 28, 2015. Some 30,000 Iraqi troops and militia backed by aircraft pounded jihadist positions in and around Tikrit on March 2, 2015, in the biggest offensive yet to retake one of the Islamic State group's main strongholds. AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of the Iraqi security forces heading from the city of Samarra north of Baghdad drive towards al-Dawr area south of Tikrit to launch an assault against the Islamic State group (IS) on February 28, 2015. Government forces have attempted and failed several times to wrest back Tikrit -- the hometown of former president Saddam Hussein -- since losing it to IS in June last year. AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of the Iraqi security forces heading from the city of Samarra north of Baghdad drive towards al-Dawr area south of Tikrit to launch an assault against the Islamic State group (IS) on February 28, 2015. Government forces have attempted and failed several times to wrest back Tikrit -- the hometown of former president Saddam Hussein -- since losing it to IS in June last year. AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi government forces keep watch from a position on the southern outskirts of Tikrit, on March 30, 2015, during a military operation to retake the city from Islamic State (IS) group jihadists. Retaking Tikrit, where jihadists have rigged streets and buildings with explosives, will require 'major sacrifices' on the part of Iraqi forces, a senior intelligence officer said. AFP PHOTO/AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi paramilitary Shiite fighters load a locally made rocket during a military operation to retake the city of Tikrit from Islamic State (IS) group jihadists, as seen from a position on the southern outskirts of Tikrit, on March 30, 2015. Retaking Tikrit, where jihadists have rigged streets and buildings with explosives, will require 'major sacrifices' on the part of Iraqi forces, a senior intelligence officer said. AFP PHOTO/AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
Smoke billows during a military operation by Iraqi forces and allied paramilitaries to retake the city of Tikrit from Islamic State (IS) group jihadists, as seen from the southern outskirts of Tikrit, on March 30, 2015. Retaking Tikrit, where jihadists have rigged streets and buildings with explosives, will require 'major sacrifices' on the part of Iraqi forces, a senior intelligence officer said. AFP PHOTO/AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi army officer Abdul Wahab al-Saedi, commander Salaheddin operations, uses a binocular to watch an ongoing operation by Iraqi forces and allied paramilitaries to retake the city of Tikrit from Islamic State (IS) group jihadists, as seen from the southern outskirts of Tikrit, on March 30, 2015. Retaking Tikrit, where jihadists have rigged streets and buildings with explosives, will require 'major sacrifices' on the part of Iraqi forces, a senior intelligence officer said. AFP PHOTO/AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
Smoke billows during a military operation by Iraqi forces and allied paramilitaries to retake the city of Tikrit from Islamic State (IS) group jihadists, as seen from the southern outskirts of Tikrit, on March 30, 2015. Retaking Tikrit, where jihadists have rigged streets and buildings with explosives, will require 'major sacrifices' on the part of Iraqi forces, a senior intelligence officer said. AFP PHOTO/AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
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BAGHDAD (AP) - Backed by Iranian-supported Shiite militias, Iraqi forces launched a large-scale offensive Monday to retake Saddam Hussein's hometown from the Islamic State group, the first in a series of campaigns to try to reclaim large parts of northern Iraq from the Sunni extremists.

Previous attempts to capture the symbolic city have failed, and hours into Monday's operation, the military said it still hadn't entered Tikrit, indicating a long battle lies ahead. Retaking it will help Iraqi forces secure a major supply link for any future operation to retake Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city which has been under militant rule since June.

State-run Al-Iraqiya television said that forces were attacking from different directions, backed by artillery and airstrikes by Iraqi fighter jets. It said the militants were dislodged from some areas outside the city, but several hours into the operation, it gave no additional details.

Tikrit, the provincial capital of Salauhddin province, 80 miles (130 kilometers) north of Baghdad, fell to the Islamic State group last summer, along with Mosul and other areas in the country's Sunni heartland.

U.S. military officials have said a coordinated military mission to retake Mosul will likely begin in April or May and involve up to 25,000 Iraqi troops. But the Americans have cautioned that if the Iraqis aren't ready, the offensive could be delayed.

The U.S.-led coalition launching airstrikes targeting the Islamic State group was not involved in the Tikrit operation, Iraqi officials said. A Pentagon spokesman, Army Col. Steve Warren, said the U.S. was alerted to the offensive before it started Monday but was not asked to provide air power.

"Right now we are not providing any air power to support the Iraqi operation in the city of Tikrit," Warren told reporters in Washington. "We did note the Iraqi government's statements that they are emphasizing minimization of collateral damage, and we are continuing to monitor it."

Iraqi forces apparently have the help of Iranian Gen. Ghasem Soleimani, the commander of the elite Revolutionary Guard's Quds Force, who arrived two days ago, the Iranian semi-official Fars news agency reported.

The powerful general has emerged as the chief tactician in Iraq's fight against the Sunni militants, working on the front lines alongside dozens of advisers from his country's Revolutionary Guard to direct Shiite militiamen and government forces in the smallest details of battle.

Fars also reported drones were flying over Tikrit, without identifying whether they were Iranian or Iraqi.

The military commander of Salahuddin region, Gen. Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi, told state TV fighting was taking place outside Tikrit mainly on its eastern side.

"Until this moment we have not entered the city," al-Saadi said. "God willing, we will enter, but we need some time as planned. ... God willing, victory will be achieved and Salahuddin will be turned into a grave for all terrorist groups."

Tikrit is an important test case for Iraq's Shiite-led government, which is trying to reassert authority over the divided country. Islamic State fighters have a strong presence in the city and are expected to put up fierce resistance.

Past attempts to retake Tikrit have failed, as Iraq struggles with its armed forces, which collapsed in the wake of the Islamic State group's offensive last summer.

The offensive comes as momentum has begun to shift since Iraqi soldiers, backed by airstrikes from the U.S.-led coalition, took back the nearby refinery town of Beiji in November. Any operation to take Mosul would require Iraq to seize Tikrit first because of its strategic location for military enforcements.

Iraq is bitterly split between minority Sunnis, who were an important base of support for Saddam, and the Shiite majority. Since Saddam was toppled in a U.S.-led invasion in 2003, the Sunni minority has felt increasingly marginalized by the Shiite-led government in Baghdad, and in 2006 long-running tensions boiled over into sectarian violence that claimed tens of thousands of lives.

While state TV said Shiite and Sunni tribal fighters were cooperating in Monday's offensive, Tikrit is an important Sunni stronghold, and the presence of Shiite forces could prompt a backlash among Sunnis. The Iraqi military is heavily dependent on Shiite militias that have been accused of abusing Sunni communities elsewhere in Iraq.

Hours after the offensive began, the U.N. special envoy in Iraq appealed to warring groups to avoid attacking civilians.

"Military operations reinforced by international and Iraqi air support must be conducted with the utmost care to avoid civilian casualties, and with full respect for fundamental human rights principles and humanitarian law," Nickolay Mladenov said in a statement.

Monday afternoon, a gasoline tanker rigged with a bomb exploded as soldiers and Shiite militiamen tried to dismantle it in the village of al-Jalam south of Tikrit, killing seven troops and wounding 15, police and hospital officials said.

Al-Jalam, a farming area that has been a stronghold of Sunni militants, is located outside the Sunni city of Samarra, 95 kilometers (60 miles) north of Baghdad. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to journalists.

Ahead of the operation, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, a Shiite, called on Sunni tribal fighters to abandon the Islamic State extremist group, offering what he described as "the last chance" and promising them a pardon.

"I call upon those who have been misled or committed a mistake to lay down arms and join their people and security forces in order to liberate their cities," al-Abadi said Sunday during a news conference in Samarra.

His comments appeared to be targeting former members of Iraq's outlawed Baath party, loyalists to Saddam, who joined the Islamic State group during its offensive, as well as other Sunnis who were dissatisfied with Baghdad's Shiite-led government.

Saddam, whose Sunni-dominated government ruled the country for some two decades, was executed after his ouster. Tikrit frequently saw attacks on U.S. forces during the American occupation of the country.

Iraqi Forces Storm Tikrit
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