Iraqi forces free Islamic State-held town

Iraqi security forces on Monday retook control of the town of al-Alam in Salahudin province after clashes with the Islamic State (IS) militants, as the troops continued their push toward the provincial capital city Tikrit, a security source said.

IANS| Updated: Mar 10, 2015, 00:15 AM IST

Baghdad: Iraqi security forces on Monday retook control of the town of al-Alam in Salahudin province after clashes with the Islamic State (IS) militants, as the troops continued their push toward the provincial capital city Tikrit, a security source said.

The troops and allied Shia and Sunni militias, backed by armoured vehicles and covered by Iraqi aircraft, entered the town just east of Tikrit from the south and the east after recapturing several outside villages, Xinhua cited the source as saying.

Sporadic clashes are still underway inside the town as the IS militants are still fighting in some small pockets on the western side of the town, the source said, adding that explosive experts had started defusing dozens of roadside bombs and booby-trapped buildings.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi forces started to clear roadside bombs on the roads leading to the outer neighbourhoods of Tikrit city, as heavy clashes and shelling continued on IS positions inside the city.

Separately, the troops and allied Shia militias arrived at Ajil oilfield east of Tikrit after days of clashes with the IS militants, the source said.

Earlier on Thursday, the IS militants apparently set fire to the oil installations as flames and plumes of black smoke rose above the area.

The small Ajil oilfield is one of the most important financial resources to fund the IS militant group which extracts about 10,000 barrels per day and convey them by some 300 tanker trucks to other areas in Nineveh province and IS-held areas in Syria.

The Iraqi security forces began their operation last week via five paths: two from Mkesheifa and Sur Shnas, south of Tikrit, two others from Udheim and Tuz Khurmato, east of Tikrit, and the last from the Speicher airbase, just north of Tikrit, according to security sources.

Large parts of Salahudin province have been under IS control since June 11, a day after bloody clashes broke out between Iraqi security forces and the group.

The IS has taken control of the country's northern city of Mosul and later seized swathes of territories in Nineveh and other predominantly Sunni provinces.