Iraqi security forces and Shiite fighters reload a weapon during clashes with Islamic State militants in Salahuddin province March 2, 2015. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani
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Thousands of Iraqi soldiers and Shiite militiamen sought to seal off ISIS fighters in Tikrit and nearby towns Tuesday, the second day of Iraq's biggest offensive yet against a stronghold of the radical Sunni Islamist militants.Soleimani, head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Quds Force, was directing operations on the eastern flank from a village about 55 km (35 miles) from Tikrit called Albu Rayash, captured from ISIS two days ago.The offensive is the biggest military operation in the Salahuddin region north of Baghdad since last summer, when ISIS fighters killed hundreds of Iraq army soldiers who had abandoned their military base at Camp Speicher outside Tikrit.Months of U.S.-led air strikes, backed up by the Shiite militias, Kurdish peshmerga fighters and Iraqi soldiers, have contained ISIS in Iraq and pushed it back from around Baghdad, the Kurdish north, and the eastern province of Diyala.
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