March 8, 2015 / 9:44 AM / 5 years ago

Iraqi troops battle to advance in towns on edge of Tikrit

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi security forces and Shi’ite militia fighters struggled to advance on Saturday into the two towns of al-Alam and al-Dour near Tikrit, their progress slowed by fierce defense from Islamic State militants.

“We are facing a strong resistance from terrorist groups and we are trying to surround Daesh inside al-Alam and al-Dour and cut all supply routes for them,” said al-Alam mayor Laith al-Jubouri, referring to the Islamic State fighters.

Army and militia fighters entered the southern and eastern parts of al-Dour on Friday. Commanders said at the time that the town had been completely recaptured, but officials said only parts of it had been retaken.

Canada said one of its soldiers was killed in a friendly fire incident, the first fatality for the country during its current military mission in Iraq. Three other Canadian soldiers were wounded.

The soldiers were with Canada’s special operations forces and were mistakenly engaged by Iraqi Kurdish forces following their return to an observation post behind the front lines, the defense department said in a statement.

Elsewhere in Iraq suicide and car bomb attacks killed at least 19 people on Saturday, police and medical sources said.

The deadliest attack took place in the northern town of Tuz Khurmatu where a car bomb blast followed by a suicide attack killed eight people and wounded 32 in the town center, police and medical sources said.

A bomb exploded near local government and political party headquarters in the town, and after passers-by gathered a suicide attacker ‎blew himself up among the crowd, one police officer said.

I‎n a separate incident, four mortars hit Baghdad’s southern neighborhood of Arab Jubour, killing two people, police said. A bomb blast killed one person in the capital’s northern Shaab district.

Three people were killed and 11 wounded when a bomb struck a bus in the district of New Baghdad, police said.

Members of Iraqi security forces and Shiite fighters sit on a vehicle in Al Hadidiya, south of Tikrit, en route to the Islamic State-controlled al-Alam town, where they are preparing to launch an offensive on Saturday, March 6, 2015. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani

In the town of Khan Bani Saad, north of Baghdad, a parked car bomb exploded near a football match, killing two people.

In the western province of Anbar, a suicide bomber driving an army Humvee vehicle packed with explosives attacked a police post near the border crossing with Jordan, killing three policemen and wounding three, local security officials said.

Gunmen in another humvee opened fire. “It seems it was a failed attempt to control the post,” said one police officer.

Reporting by Ahmed Rasheed and Kareem Raheem; Writing by Dominic Evans; Editing by Stephen Powell

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