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Iraqi prime minister announces new offensive as forces advance in Saladin province

Prime Minsiter Haider al-Abadi announced a "second phase" in the liberation of Saladin province after Iraqi military forces captured Tikrit in April.

By Fred Lambert
Iraqi prime minister announces new offensive as forces advance in Saladin province
Iraqi soldiers ride atop an armored vehicle during fighting with Islamic State militants in Tikrit, Iraq, on April 1, 2015. On Oct. 13, 2015, Iraqi forces began advancing on IS-held territories in Saladin province, of which Tikrit is the capital. The day before, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abaidi announced a "second phase" in the liberation of the province. Photo by Alaa Mohamed/UPI | License Photo

TIKRIT, Iraq, Oct. 13 (UPI) -- Security forces have begun advancing against Islamic State positions in Iraq's Saladin province one day after the country's prime minister announced a "second phase" in the liberation of the area.

IraqiNews.com reports the announcement was made in a Monday statement released by the office of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

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Xinhua news agency, quoting an anonymous provincial security source, reports Iraqi troops and Iran-trained Shia militias, known as Hashid Shaabi, or Popular Mobilization Committees, on Tuesday began advancing toward the IS-held town of Seiniyah.

The assault was slowed by roadside bombs, but Iraqi forces were reportedly able to capture a village on the outskirts.

The prime minister's statement Monday indicated the offensive would also target the IS-held oil refinery in the town of Baiji, situated just north of Seiniyah.

A roadside bomb, meanwhile, killed two Iraqi soldiers, including an officer, and injured four others in the town of Duluiyah, about 60 highway miles south of Tikrit, the capital of Saladin province.

Iraqi officials announced the first phase of the operation in March, when security forces, backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes and the Hashid Shaabi, began assaulting Tikrit.

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The coalition managed to capture Tikrit by April, but the Shia militias -- which U.S. officials deny coordinating with -- had to be pulled from the largely Sunni Arab city amid reports of looting and illegal killings.

Elsewhere in Iraq Tuesday, eight IS militants were killed and five others injured in an airstrike in the Anbar province town of Garma, Xinhua reports, while two roadside bombings north of Ramadi, the provincial capital of Anbar, killed three soldiers and injured another five.

Government forces have since mid-July fought to regain Anbar from IS militants, which have held large portions of the province since last year.

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