Iraq ‘Receives Russian Fighter Jets’ To Fight Rebels
Iraq says it has received the first batch of fighter jets it ordered from Russia to help it as it fights an offensive by Sunni rebels.Iraqi security officials said five second-hand Sukhoi attack aircraft would enter service within a few days, and that more were on their way.
The insurgents control large swathes of the north and west after a string of attacks over the past three weeks.
On Saturday, the government said it had retaken the northern city of Tikrit.
State television said 60 militants had been killed and that preparations were now being made to move north towards rebel-held Mosul.
Tikrit fell on 11 June to rebels of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis).
The rebels confirmed there had been heavy fighting in the city but implied the attack had failed, saying they were pursuing what was left of the army offensive.
The Iraqi security officials said the first five Sukhoi jets arrived on Saturday.
The Iraqi defence ministry said the planes were SU-25, however a Russian expert was quoted by Lenta.ru news agency SU-30 had been sent.
They are believed to have been purchased by the government in Baghdad in a deal reportedly worth up to $500m (£293m).
Iraq needs the jets in the fights against the militants in the north-west.
Iraqi military sources have said the offensive on Tikrit – the mainly Sunni hometown of former leader Saddam Hussein – is being co-ordinated with American military advisers.
However, although the US has confirmed it is flying armed drones in Iraq to protect US personnel on the ground, US officials say American troops are not directly involved in the hostilities.
Some 300 US military advisers have been deployed to Iraq.
On Friday, Iraq’s most influential Shia cleric called for a prime minister to be appointed by Tuesday to try to defuse the country’s political crisis.
Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani said key positions should be agreed before the new parliament meets then. Pressure has been building for a national unity government.
Prime Minister Nouri Maliki wants a third term, though correspondents say he is seen by many as having precipitated the crisis through sectarian policies that have pushed Iraq’s Sunni minority into the hands of Isis extremists.