Iraqi and Syrian towns and cities seized by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham. Map created by The Long War Journal. Click to view larger map.

The Iraqi military offensive to retake Tikrit, the provincial capital of Salahaddin province, appears to have suffered its first setback as the military withdrew troops from the city after heavy fighting.

The Iraqi troops pulled back from much of Tikrit after a ground offensive, which started yesterday, “met stiff resistance” from insurgent forces in the city, the BBC reported. The insurgent alliance includes the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham, and the Naqshbandi Army, a collection of former Baathists and ostensible Islamists intent on reestablishing Sunni dominance.

Several armored columns of Iraqi forces entered Tikrit yesterday from the south. Heavy fighting was reported at the provincial council building, Saddam’s Hussein’s presidential palace, Tikrit University, and elsewhere. […]