Iraq launches push for militant-held northern city, airstrikes in Mosul

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraqi military officials say the army is back on the offensive against Sunni militants who have seized control of Iraq in recent weeks.

Troops backed by helicopter gunships have launched an operation today aimed at dislodging Sunni militants from Tikrit (tih-KREET’). The northern city is one of two major urban centers the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has seized in recent weeks in a dramatic blitz across the country.

The military also has carried out three airstrikes on the insurgent held city of Mosul. Residents there say one of the air raids hit a commercial area that did not have any obvious military target.

The Islamic State and its allies have overrun much of Iraq’s Sunni heartland, a vast territory stretching west and north from Baghdad to the Jordanian and Syrian borders. After a dramatic initial push, the onslaught appears to have slowed as the militants bump up against predominantly Shiite areas stretching south from Baghdad.

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