…from the NY Times….
The Iraqi Army on Saturday drove Islamic extremists from the center of a major city in central Iraq, for the first time mounting a concerted assault against insurgents who had charged to within 50 miles of Baghdad.
Independent sources, including local officials and witnesses, confirmed that an Iraqi Army counteroffensive had driven militants of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria from the center of Tikrit, including from government buildings as well as from major roads and other positions throughout the city.
But fighting was still continuing, with Iraqi war planes bombing targets inside the city late in the afternoon.
Tikrit, the birthplace of Saddam Hussein, with a largely Sunni population of 250,000, is in the Tigris River valley, 100 miles north of Baghdad. It has long been a stronghold of antigovernment Sunnis in Iraq, and losing it would sever the insurgents’ lines of communication to Mosul and Syria. It could also strand some of their fighters in pockets south of Tikrit.
Some Iraqi military analysts said they thought it was no coincidence that the army’s counteroffensive was launched now, with 180 of the 300 American advisers ordered to Iraq by President Obama arriving over the past three days, but Iraqi officials denied that there was any American role.
If the advances by the Iraqi Army are sustained, and even built upon, it would provide a much needed morale boost for an army that lost as much as a fourth of its soldiers and equipment when ISIS overran Mosul, and has lurched from one embarrassment to another since then…..Share on Facebook