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Battle continues for Saddam's hometown

Sunday - 6/29/2014, 11:40am  ET

BAGHDAD (AP) -- Iraqi helicopter gunships have been attacking insurgent positions today in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit (tih-KREET'). It's 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 yesterday 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.

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090-c-14-(Ryan Lucas, AP correspondent)-"the militant tide"-AP correspondent Ryan Lucas reports Iraq's Shiite-led government is trying to push Sunni militants led by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant out of the northern city of Tikrit, after weeks of demoralizing defeats. (29 Jun 2014)

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091-c-12-(Ryan Lucas, AP correspondent)-"Shiite led government"-AP correspondent Ryan Lucas reports it appears that the Islamic State and its Sunni allies continue to fight together against Iraq's U.S.-backed government. (29 Jun 2014)

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APPHOTO BAG108: In this Saturday, June 28, 2014 photo, Iraqi and Russian aircraft technicians unload warplanes aircraft at al-Muthanna Air base in Baghdad, Iraq. The government received a boost in its battle with the militants with the arrival in Baghdad late Saturday of five Sukhoi 25 warplanes purchased secondhand from Russia. (AP Photo) (28 Jun 2014)

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APPHOTO BAG103: This Saturday, June 28, 2014 photo, shows the Iraqi army being deployed outside a village near Dallah Abbas north of Baqouba, the capital of Iraq's Diyala province, 35 miles (60 kilometers) northeast of Baghdad, Iraq. The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant which already controls vast swaths in northern and eastern Syria amid the chaos of that nation's civil war, aims to erase the borders of the modern Middle East and impose its strict brand of Shariah law. (AP Photo) (29 Jun 2014)

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