TIKRIT, Iraq, March 10 (Xinhua) — Iraqi security forces continued their offensive on Tuesday to free the city of Tikrit, but were slowed by fierce clashes with the Islamic State (IS) militants and roadside bombs, a security source said.
In the morning, the Iraqi army and police forces, backed by thousands of allied Shiite and Sunni militias, tried to enter the outer neighborhoods of Tikrit, from the south, west and north, the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
The offensive was supported by dozens of tanks, armored vehicles, heavy artillery shelling and Iraqi aircraft, the source said.
However, hours of heavy clashes with the IS militants slowed the troops, forcing them to defuse hundreds of landmines, roadside bombs and booby-trapped buildings planted by the IS group, the source said.
As the battles broke out in the morning, the extremist militants blew up a bridge on the Tigris River, which links the city with the adjacent town of al-Alam, the source added.
Al-Alam, just east of Tikrit, was freed from the IS militants late on Monday, after Iraqi troops recaptured several outside villages from the extremist militants. Overnight the troops ended the last pockets of resistance inside al-Alam.
For the past few days, the city has been under siege by Iraqi forces which continued their heavy bombardment on IS positions inside the city, the source said.
Some 30,000 Iraqi troops and thousands of allied Shiite and Sunni militias have been involved in a week-long offensive to recapture Tikrit and other key towns and villages in northern part of the province from IS militants.
Large parts of Salahudin province have been under IS control since June 2014 after bloody clashes broke out between Iraqi security forces and the IS group.
The militant group has taken control of the country’s northern city of Mosul and later seized swathes of territories in Nineveh and other predominantly Sunni provinces.