Baghdad: The Iraqi security forces Saturday re-took control of three towns in Salahudin province lying north of capital Baghdad, while troops were also being deployed in the south of the provincial capital city of Tikrit for a military offensive later, a provincial police source said.
The troops backed by the residents of the town of Ishaqi, 90 km north of Baghdad, clashed with the militant groups and recaptured the town earlier seized by them, Xinhua quoted a source as saying Saturday.
Meanwhile, the security forces attacked the nearby town of al- Mu'tasim, 100 km north of Baghdad, and seized the town from the militants' control, the source said.
Later Friday, the security forces backed by the residents of the town of Duluiyah, 80 km north of Baghdad, re-took control of the town after they clashed with a group of militants who fled the town, the source added.
Two more villages near the city of Baiji, some 200 km north of Baghdad, were also cleared of militants by the residents and remnants of the local police who took up arms and clashed with the gunmen. Preparations are underway to retake the city of Baiji.
The Sunni-dominated city of Tikrit, which is the hometown of former President Saddam Hussein, has been in the hands of the gunmen since Wednesday.
On Friday, the most influential Shiite cleric in Iraq Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani called on Iraqis to take up arms to defend their country against insurgent groups who took control of large parts of the country.
"The situation in Iraq is very serious, entailing those who are able to volunteer to take up arms to defend their homeland," Sistani said in his statement read after the weekly Friday prayers.