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Iraq official: Security forces launch final phase of Tikrit ground assault after airstrikes

Iraqi militia leader Hadi al-Amiri speaks to the press in Samarra, Iraq 95 kilometers (60 miles) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, March 25, 2015. Al-Amiri insisted that the Popular Mobilization Unit, which consists of various militias, does not need assistance from coalition forces to retake the militant-held city of Tikrit.  The U.S. and Iraq have been discussing possible U.S. airstrikes in support of a stalled Iraqi ground offensive against a dug-in Islamic State force in Tikrit, U.S. officials said Wednesday. The prospect of U.S. airstrikes in Tikrit raises highly sensitive questions about participating in an Iraqi campaign that has been spearheaded by Iraqi Shiite militias trained and equipped by Iran, an avowed U.S. adversary. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

Iraqi militia leader Hadi al-Amiri speaks to the press in Samarra, Iraq 95 kilometers (60 miles) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, March 25, 2015. Al-Amiri insisted that the Popular Mobilization Unit, which consists of various militias, does not need assistance from coalition forces to retake the militant-held city of Tikrit. The U.S. and Iraq have been discussing possible U.S. airstrikes in support of a stalled Iraqi ground offensive against a dug-in Islamic State force in Tikrit, U.S. officials said Wednesday. The prospect of U.S. airstrikes in Tikrit raises highly sensitive questions about participating in an Iraqi campaign that has been spearheaded by Iraqi Shiite militias trained and equipped by Iran, an avowed U.S. adversary. (AP Photo/Karim Kadim)  (The Associated Press)

The commander of Iraq's military operations in Salahuddin province says government forces have launched the final phase of an offensive to recapture the Islamic State-held city of Tikrit.

Lt. Gen. Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi tells The Associated Press Thursday that Iraqi troops and special forces have begun moving toward the center of Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's hometown.

The Islamic State group seized the Sunni city last summer during its lightning advance across northern Iraq.

At Iraq's request, the U.S. began airstrikes on Tikrit on Wednesday in support of the stalled ground offensive. Iranian military advisers have been providing significant support since the offensive began on March 2, and Shiite militias have played a prominent role on the battlefield.