Iraq's army launches an assault to reclaim Tikrit, the birthplace of former president Saddam Hussein. Deborah Gembara reports.
Smoke from a downed helicopter in Tikrit. Insurgents fired on the chopper as Iraqi government tanks moved in. The army is trying to stamp out a rebel takeover by Sunni militants. Troops backed by helicopter gunships began their assault near Tikrit's University overnight. Iraqi army spokesman Qassim Atta says they've focused on some of the city's more densely offered this status update on Sunday. SOUNDBITE: (Arabic) IRAQI ARMY SPOKESMAN QASSIM ATTA SAYING: "Fighting is still going on but Tikrit University is now under our full control. The university is huge with lots of land and buildings. But, our security plan was drawn up carefully and we've cleared the main buildings. Reinforcements were sent to the troops on the ground and the Iraqi flag was hoisted over the university building." While the battle for Tikrit remains undecided, the military is well aware that winning here, in former President Saddam Hussein's birthplace, is crucial. If ISIL fighters can claim Tikrit, it puts them within striking distance of the top prize...Baghdad.