BAGHDAD, July 16 (Xinhua) -- The Iraqi security forces fought Sunni militant groups in several areas across the country, while the troops continued a major offensive to free the militant-seized city of Tikrit, security sources said on Wednesday.
In Salahudin province, the troops continued their battles with Sunni militants, including those who are linked to the Islamic State (IS), an al-Qaida offshoot, in the provincial capital city of Tikrit, some 170 km north of Baghdad, after a day of fierce clashes that enabled the troops from seizing an area in southeastern the city, a provincial police source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
The fierce resistance from the militants prevented the troops from entering the city downtown from all the routes except for the southeastern edge of the city which is witnessing a continuous battles since Tuesday, the source said.
The army and police forces backed by tanks and covered with helicopters on Tuesday moved into the city from several routes at dawn and fought fierce clashes with the militants in an operation dubbed the "Cutting Sword" to free the city from the tribal fighters and Sunni militants groups, according to a provincial security source.
The military spokesman Major General Qasim Atta, on Wednesday told reporters that Tuesday's major offensive in Tikrit was a blitzkrieg operation aimed at destroying the enemy's defenses near Tikrit hospital, police academy and residential buildings in southeastern the city.
"The troops killed 76 terrorists and wounded some 40 others, along with destroying 19 vehicles, and our troops are still striking the terrorist groups," Atta told a news conference in Baghdad.
The latest offensive on Tikrit came after several failed attempts by the Iraqi security forces to retake control of Tikrit, which came under the control of militants since June 11, when hundreds of gunmen entered the city during the advance of the Sunni militants.
Also in the province, a local police force teamed up with armed residents took full control of the town of Dhuluiyah, some 90 km north of Baghdad, after three days of clashes with Sunni insurgents affiliated with the Islamic State (IS) group, an al- Qaida offshoot, the provincial source said.
The battles began around dawn on Sunday when IS militants stormed the town, seizing its northern part after blowing up a local government office building, a town court and a bridge. Local police and armed residents prevented the militants from capturing the southern part of the Dhuluiyah, the source added.
Late on Tuesday, an army force arrived to the scene to support the town's fighting against the extremist militants, he said.
In Anbar province, spokesman Atta said that the security forces backed by aircraft clashed with the militants in several areas across the province and killed a total of 79 militants.
Meanwhile, 17 people, including a child and a woman, were killed and 11 others wounded, including two children and three women, in airstrikes, barrel bombs and artillery shelling on several neighborhoods of the city of Fallujah, some 50 km west of Baghdad, a medical source from the city hospital said.
The attacks on the city were carried out since midnight to Wednesday morning, and one of the barrel bombs hit the city's college of medicine and caused severe damages to the building, the source said.
In Iraq's eastern province of Diyala, clashes continued between the Sunni militants and security forces backed by Shiite volunteers in several areas across the province, leaving a total of 21 militants killed, the spokesman Atta said without giving further details about the clashes.
In south of Baghdad, the troops killed six militants and destroyed a vehicle with heavy machinegun in fierce clashes in Jurf al-Sakhar area located in the northern part of Babil province, Atta added.
The sectarian mixed province of Babil has been part of latest Sunni insurgency against the Shiite-led government. The area in north of Hilla, which located about 100 km south of Baghdad, is known as the Triangle of Death. It is a cluster of Sunni towns scattered north of the province.
Atta also said that the warplanes and helicopter gunships carried dozens of air strikes in the provinces of Nineveh, Salahudin, Diyala, Anbar and Babil, providing support for the ground troops and causing heavy casualties among the militant groups.
Iraq has been witnessing some of its worst violence in years. More than a month ago, armed Sunni insurgents, spearheaded by the IS, launched a surprise offensive that lead to the breakdown of Iraq's army, as troops fled, abandoning their posts and military equipment. The insurgents have captured a large part of the country's northern and western territories.