Thousands of government troops, Shia militia and armed Sunni tribesmen converge in Samarra for the ground offensive.
has launched a military offensive against the Islamic State of Iraq and
the Levant (ISIL) in the latest attempt to oust the armed group from
the strategic province of Salaheddin, which includes the ancient city of
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abbadi arrived on Sunday in the
northern city of Samarra in Salaheddin to oversee the military
operation, and vowed to "liberate" the province "from the tyranny of the
Thousands of government troops, fighters from Shia militia and Sunni
tribes have gathered around Samarra for the operation in the nearby
strongholds of ISIL near the Tigris River, Al Jazeera has learned.
Iraq's military also told Reuters news agency that around 2,000 Shia
militia fighters have arrived near Tikrit in preparation for the major
Raed Jabouri, governor of Salaheddin, had said last week that 5,000
fighters from the security forces and Hashid Shaabi militia, which was
formed last year with Iranian support, would join the operation.
Al Jazeera's Jane Arraf, reporting from Baghdad, said that "this is
one of the biggest military operations that will eventually proceed to
take back Mosul," referring to main city of Nineveh province, which is
the stronghold of ISIL.
Our correspondent said that US air strikes are also expected to provide back-up for the Iraqi troops on the ground.
"This is not expected to be an easy fight," she said. "ISIL has dug in there."