Iraqi forces launched an airborne assault on rebel-held Tikrit on Thursday with commandos flown into a stadium in helicopters, at least one of which crashed after taking fire from insurgents who have seized northern cities.
Eyewitnesses said battles were raging in the city, hometown of former dictator Saddam Hussein, which fell to Sunni Islamist fighters two weeks ago on the third day of a lightning offensive that has given them control of most majority Sunni regions.
The helicopters were shot at as they flew low over the city and landed in a stadium at the city’s university, a security source at the scene said. Government spokesmen did not respond to requests for comment and by evening the assault was still not being reported on state media. […]