Battle continues for Saddam's hometown in northern Iraq

An Iraqi seller shows a rug bearing a picture of former Iraqi Dictator Saddam Hussein at his shop in Baghdad, Iraq. (File) (Wathiq Khuzaie, Getty Images)
An Iraqi seller shows a rug bearing a picture of former Iraqi Dictator Saddam Hussein at his shop in Baghdad, Iraq. (File) (Wathiq Khuzaie, Getty Images)
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Updated: 6/29 4:40 pm

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraqi helicopter gunships have been attacking insurgent positions Sunday in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit -- as part of a government offensive to retake the northern Iraqi city from Sunni militants.

The military launched its push against the militants in Tikrit yesterday with an assault spearheaded by ground troops backed by tanks and helicopters. Security officials say the army is coordinating its campaign with the United States.

The mostly-Sunni city is a hotbed of anger toward Iraq's government, led by Shiites. It's one of two major urban centers that fell to insurgents earlier this month.

The insurgents -- from the al-Qaida breakaway group called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant -- appear to have repelled the military's initial push for Tikrit, and they remain in control of the city. But residents reached by phone say battles are continuing in a northern neighborhood.

The Iraqi government received a boost Saturday with the arrival of five warplanes that had been purchased second-hand from Russia. The planes are designed to provide close air support to ground forces, and to destroy mobile targets.

©2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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