An air strike on the insurgent-controlled Iraqi city of Tikrit killed at least seven people on Sunday, as the authorities seek to stem a swift Sunni militant offensive.
The air strike, reported by state television and witnesses, comes after a lightning advance earlier this month in which insurgents including the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant jihadist group overran a swathe of territory, including Tikrit.
The television said the strike targeted a group of militants and killed 40 of them, while witnesses told AFP the attack hit a petrol station in the centre of the city, which is the capital of Salaheddin province north of Baghdad.
The witnesses said seven people were killed, but did not know whether the casualties were fighters.
Beginning late on June 9, militants led by ISIL but also including a number of other groups such as loyalists of executed dictator Saddam Hussein, overran most of one province and parts of three others north of Baghdad.
The security forces wilted in the face of the initial onslaught, in many cases abandoning vehicles, equipment and even their uniforms.
They appear to have recovered in the past few days, with officials touting gains against militants, though insurgents have made territorial progress elsewhere.
The United States has offered up to 300 military advisers to help Iraq stem the tide, but has stopped short of acceding to Baghdad’s request for air strikes, calling instead for more inclusive leadership by the Shiite-led government.
The crisis has alarmed the international community, with the United Nations warning that it was “life-threatening for Iraq”.