The Iraqi army drove terrorirts insurgents out of late dictator Saddam Hussein’s home village, state media and police said, part of a campaign to retake wide areas of northern and western Iraq overrun by the armed terrorists.
The Iraqi army drove terrorirts insurgents out of late dictator Saddam Hussein's home village, state media and police said, part of a campaign to retake wide areas of northern and western Iraq overrun by the armed terrorists.
Government forces along with armed volunteers backed by helicopter gunships recaptured the village of Awja on Thursday night, according to state media, police and local inhabitants.
They said three insurgents were killed in an hour-long battle, and the main body of militant forces had fled south along the eastern bank of the Tigris River across from Awja.
State television quoted the prime minister's military spokesman, Qassem Atta, as saying that Awja had been "totally cleansed" and 30 militants had been killed. No casualty figures could be independently verified.
The army said it now held the 50 km (30-mile) stretch of main highway running north from the city of Samarra - which is 100 km (60 miles) north of Baghdad - to Awja.
But the city of Tikrit a few km north of Awja remained in the grip of insurgents after falling early in the lightning offensive last month that gave militants led by the so-called 'Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant' (also dubbed as ISIL), control of most regions north of Baghdad.
Among the armed terrorists Iraqi forces repelled from Awja were members of the Naqshbandi Army, made up of former army officers as well as loyalists of Hussein's old Baathist party.
Though militants and old Baathists have banded together to fight their common foe - the government of Nuri al-Maliki - cracks are showing in their loose bloc.
In the town of Hawija near the northern city of Kirkuk, 15 people were killed when fighting broke out a fortnight ago between ISIL and members of the Naqshbandi Army.
Politically, former Iraqi parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi, a major political foe of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, said he would not nominate himself for another term to make it easier for the Shi'ite political parties to replace the premier.
"I appreciate the demands of the brothers in the National Alliance who see that Maliki will insist on holding on to the premiership if I nominate myself for speaker of the Council of the Representatives," he said, according to a text of the speech published on his Facebook page late on Thursday.
The National Alliance is a bloc comprising the country's biggest Shi'ite parties.
"Out of respect for them and in order to achieve the interests of the people and the country and to defend the oppressed and those who hold rights, I have decided not to nominate myself," said Nujaifi.
Iraqi politicians have been deadlocked over the formation of a new government despite pressure from the United States, Iran, the United Nations, and Iraq's own clerics to overcome their differences to face a major insurgency.