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Some 30,000 Iraqi troops and militia backed by aircraft pounded jihadists in and around Tikrit on Monday in the biggest offensive yet to retake one of the Islamic State group's main strongholds. Government forces have battled their way north for months, notching up key victories against IS, but Tikrit has been their toughest target yet with the jihadists having resisted them several times. Commanders voiced hope the broadest operation since IS overran swathes of the country last year would be a step towards the liberation of Mosul, the jihadists' main hub in Iraq. "Security forces are advancing on three main fronts towards Tikrit, Ad-Dawr (to the south) and Al-Alam (to the north)," a senior army officer on the ground told AFP by telephone.