Iraqi government forces are advancing into Tikrit on several fronts, forcing Islamic State (IS) militants to fall back to the city centre, officials say. Soldiers and militiamen have reportedly retaken areas and key sites in the north, south and west, including a police headquarters and a hospital. Iraq’s defence minister said phase two of the offensive would begin soon.
Some 23,000 personnel are believed to be involved in the operation to recapture Saddam Hussein’s hometown. It is the biggest offensive against IS mounted by the government since the jihadist group captured large parts of the country last June. Meanwhile, the BBC has seen video evidence that chlorine gas is being used as a weapon in Tikrit by IS militants.