UK & World News

  • 2 July 2014, 13:30

Iraq: First Images Show Battle To Retake Tikrit

Iraqi state television has broadcast what are believed to be the first images of an operation to reclaim the city of Tikrit from ISIS militants, as Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki warns that no one in the region is safe from the group's plans.

The footage follows Iraqi troops as they attempt to wrestle control of the city, which lies around 100 miles north of Baghdad, from members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Gunfire is heard as tanks drive through streets near Tikrit University.

The video, reportedly shot on June 30, then appears to show soldiers as they storm a university building.

Iraqi army spokesman Qassim al Moussawi later told reporters that government troops were in full control of the university and had raised the Iraqi flag over the campus.

Iraqi security forces military launched the offensive, spearheaded by thousands of ground troops backed by tanks, warplanes and helicopters, on Saturday.

Tikrit, the birthplace of Saddam Hussein, is among a number of cities seized by the Sunni militants in northern and western Iraq in recent weeks.

In Syria, they have captured territory in the north and east, along the frontier with Iraq.

ISIS has declared the establishment of an Islamic state in the areas it controls and proclaimed its leader, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, as "caliph" - the head of the state.

In his weekly address Mr al Maliki warned that "no one in Iraq or any neighbouring country will be safe from these plans".

He said the declaration "is a message to all the states in the region that you are inside the red circle now".

According to Iraqi government officials almost 2,000 people were killed in fighting in June alone - the highest figure since May 2007.

The United Nations has also warned that militant group's gains have created "an extremely volatile and dangerous situation for children."

Leila Zerrougui, the UN special representative for children and armed conflict said there were "disturbing reports" that child soldiers were being recruited by ISIS.

She made the comments after releasing her department's annual report.

It found that seven national armies and 50 armed groups are using child soldiers. They include Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Syria.

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