Around 30,000 members of Iraq’s military and militias are participating in the offensive against Islamic State fighters in the militant group’s stronghold of Tikrit, Agence France-Presse reported. The force targeted jihadist positions in and around the Iraqi city Monday after launching the large-scale offensive to reclaim northern and western Iraq from the militant group.
“Security forces are advancing on three main fronts towards Tikrit, Ad-Dawr (to the south) and Al-Alam (to the north),” a senior army officer involved in the operation told AFP. “The attack is being carried out using fighter jets, helicopters and artillery targeting Tikrit to secure the advance and cut supply routes.”
The offensive was announced by Iraqi state television a day after Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi visited troops stationed on Tikrit’s outskirts and made a speech in which he declared that the “zero hour” for Tikrit’s liberation was near, the New York Times reported. The prime minister also promised amnesty to local residents who had been forced to join the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, but said that they had a “last chance” to lay down their weapons and assist the government’s effort to stamp out the militant group from the area.