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Syrian jets bomb Isis as new battles flare in Iraq

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A Syrian man carrying a wounded girl following Syrian government airstrike at Karm al-Jabal area in Aleppo, Syria, yesterday. Syrian warplanes struck the area in the northern province of Aleppo, killing and wounding dozens of people, activists said. AP

A Syrian man carrying a wounded girl following Syrian government airstrike at Karm al-Jabal area in Aleppo, Syria, yesterday. Syrian warplanes struck the area in the northern province of Aleppo, killing and wounding dozens of people, activists said. AP

A Syrian man carrying a wounded girl following Syrian government airstrike at Karm al-Jabal area in Aleppo, Syria, yesterday. Syrian warplanes struck the area in the northern province of Aleppo, killing and wounding dozens of people, activists said. AP

Iraq launched its first counter-attack against the Isis advance yesterday with an airborne assault designed to seize back control of Tikrit university .

Braving heavy fire, three helicopters loaded with commandos landed in Tikrit stadium, triggering clashes with the Sunni insurgents who have controlled the city for the past week.

Witnesses said battles were raging in the city, the hometown of former dictator Saddam Hussein, in the wake of the lightning offensive by government forces.

Ahmed al-Jubbour, professor at the university's college of agriculture, described the clashes taking place.

"I saw one of the helicopters land opposite the university with my own eyes and I saw clashes between dozens of militants and government forces," he said.

Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki also confirmed that war planes from neighbouring Syria had targeted Sunni militants inside Iraq.

Yesterday, British foreign secretary William Hague used a visit to Baghdad to call for a government of national reconciliation.

Mr Hague warned Mr Maliki that he must form an inclusive government that reflects the makeup of Iraq's society.

"We believe the single most important factor that will determine whether or not Iraq overcomes this challenge is political unity," he said.

Mr Maliki has been widely accused of aggravating sectarian tensions and is under pressure to reach out to rival factions for a political solution.

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The crisis has grown to such a point that Iraq faced a "mortal threat", Mr Hague said, raising the prospect of the country disintegrating into fiefdoms controlled by various sects.

He added that Isis posed a "direct threat to other countries in the region".

Britain has ruled out military intervention, but Mr Hague said it would provide "diplomatic, counter-terrorism and humanitarian support".

During a meeting with Mr Maliki, Mr Hague promised to prosecute jihadists travelling from Britain to fight in Iraq.

"We will also use the full force of the law to prevent people travelling from Britain for the purposes of committing terrorist acts overseas, and prosecute those who do," he said. "Anyone glorifying, supporting or joining it should understand that they would be assisting a group responsible for kidnapping, torture, executions, rape and many other hideous crimes."

Mr Hague will meet with President Masoud Barzani, the Kurdish leader, to discuss his role in the conflict. Kurdish peshmerga forces moved to secure the oil city of Kirkuk, which the Kurds hold to be their historical capital city. (© Daily Telegraph, London)


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