|First Battle of Tikrit|
|Part of the Iraqi insurgency (2011–present)|
& the Salahuddin campaign (2014–15)
Looking north along the Tigris towards Saddam's Presidential palace
Republic of IraqUnited States
|Casualties and losses|
2 helicopters shot down and 1 damaged
|215+ killed (government claim)|
The First Battle of Tikrit was a battle for the city of Tikrit following the town's capture by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and Ba'athists Loyalists during the 2014 Northern Iraq offensive. The battle took place between 26 and 30 June 2014. ISIL had already captured Mosul, Iraq's second largest city. After capturing the city, they advanced to Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussein. The insurgents claimed Tikrit, after the government forces retreated following the battle. United States also participated in the battle on Iraq's side.
Background[edit | edit source]
Since December 2013, clashes between tribal militias, Iraqi security forces, and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, broke in the western part of Iraq. In early January of the next year, the militants captured Fallujah and Ramadi which brought a large part of the Anbar province under their control. Later that year the Iraqi army launched an offensive and recaptured Samarra on 5 June. The ISIL also strenghtened themselves by sourcing weapons from the neighbouring country of Syria where they also advanced.
In 10 June, the city of Mosul (the second largest Iraqi city) "fell" to ISIL, in a way which was described by a businessman from the town as "like a plane without an engine". There were 30,000 Iraqi troops in comparison to around 1,000 of ISIL, outnumbering the insurgent group to 15 to 1. But most of the soldiers fled, and blended with the mass, refusing to fight with the ISIL.
The battle[edit | edit source]
On 26 June, Iraqi government forces launched an airborne assault on Tikrit with three or four commandos helicopters flown into in a stadium at the city's university. One of the helicopters was shot down and crash-landed at the stadium, while another had to conduct an emergency landing after suffering a mechanical failure. The crew of the second helicopter, which included a Lebanese pilot, was then captured by insurgents. Fierce fighting then ensued around the university compound, while Army snipers positioned themselves on tall buildings in the university complex. In the early hours of the assault, a helicopter gunship struck the city's hospital compound. By the next day, sporadic clashes continued at the university as Iranian-trained Shiite militiamen were dispatched and managed to seize control of tall buildings in the university area.
On 28 June, helicopter gunships conducted dawn air strikes against insurgents who were attacking troops at the university campus. By this point, the city had been coming under continuous air strikes for three days, which included barrel bombs. An all-out ground offensive was launched during the day in an attempt to capture the city. A column of troops started out from Samarra towards Tikrit to the north and by sundown had reached the edge of the city. Another column was directed towards the Camp Speicher air base. There were initial claims by government sources of capturing Tikrit, however, heavy fighting continued to rage on the city outskirts during the night but Tikrit itself remained under insurgent control. In the evening, helicopters struck a gathering of people preparing for a wedding ceremony in the village of Al Bu Hayazi, east of Tikrit, killing four civilians.
The next day, troops pulled back away from Tikrit to the nearby town of Dijla, south of the city, after meeting stiff resistance, in an attempt to regroup. Fighting also continued near the university and clashes raged around the air base, which had reportedly come under army control. During the day's battles, another Iraqi army helicopter was shot down over the city and crashed near a market, while the army sent tanks to join the fighting at the university. An Iraqi army spokesman claimed 70 militants had been killed in Tikrit in the previous 24 hours and that the government forces were in control of the university. Both of the claims were not independently confirmed. Later, fierce clashes were reported in an area about 20 kilometers from the city center, toward Samarra. Militants reportedly made an advance but were stopped about 10 kilometers south of Tikrit. Meanwhile, five Su-25 attack aircraft, the first of several promised military deliveries from Russia, reached Baghdad by the end of the day.
On 30 June, government forces attempted to move out of the air base and link up with troops at the university but failed after encountering heavy insurgent resistance in the al-Deum area. Fighting continued on the southern outskirts of the city, but the army's attempt to take back Tikrit had stalled. A military spokesman said that government forces were massing in Samarra and would soon make another push to capture Tikrit. Meanwhile, south of Tikrit, the army managed to recapture the town of Mukayshifah in fighting that an army spokesman claimed killed 40 ISIS fighters.
Aftermath[edit | edit source]
On 3 July, an Iraqi Army spokesman claimed the military had regained control of the town of Awja, Saddam Hussein's birthplace, near Tikrit. However, later in the day, two battlefield commanders contradicted him and stated fighting was still continuing on the town's perimeter and in Awja itself.
During this time, troops retreated from the University complex.
On 15 July, the military launched a new assault on Tikrit from Awja. Soldiers and militiamen quickly entered the city, as militants were reportedly retreating, and seized the city's hospital. Following this, the Iraqi government was preparing to declare victory in the battle for the city. However, ISIS militants sprung an ambush that had been prepared with suicide bombers reportedly leaping from windows into groups of soldiers. Government troops retreated from the city before sunset four kilometers to the south under constant mortar and sniper fire. Several security force's vehicles were seen abandoned, with at least one of them burnt out. 52 soldiers and 40 militants were killed in the fighting.
On 17 July, insurgents launched an assault on Camp Speicher, where an estimated 700 government soldiers and 150 Iranian or Iraqi Shiite militiamen were besieged following the failed attempt to send reinforcements to the air base. The assault included snipers and suicide bombers and the militants quickly managed to reach the runway, at which point, Iraqi special forces joined the battle. The base was bombarded and mortared all night and the next morning, according to the insurgents, Tikrit's residents and a Kurdish military officer, the fighting had stopped when the final pocket of government troops had collapsed, with all of the government forces ether killed, executed or captured. At least 25–35 insurgents were also killed. Iraqi forces attempted to save the base's aircraft by flying them out, however, ISIS claimed 8–9 helicopters were destroyed on the ground or shot down, with several armored vehicles destroyed as well. The Iraqi Army denied the alleged capture of the base with soldiers from the frontline reporting Speicher was still under their control, with only three soldiers being killed and one helicopter destroyed and two damaged. A Tikrit resident also reported continued fighting around the base. Two days later, the military reported Iraqi special forces had re-secured the base.
See also[edit | edit source]
- 2012–14 Iraqi protests
- Fall of Mosul
- Fall of Hīt
- Battle of Baiji
- Battle of Ramadi (2014–15)
- Second Battle of Tikrit (March–April 2015)
- Spillover of the Syrian Civil War
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