IRAQ

Forces push to outskirts

of Hussein's hometown

Iraqi security forces and Iranian-backed Shiite Muslim militias on Tuesday pushed to the outskirts of the encircled city of Tikrit, residents and Iraqi officials said, after 10 days of heavy fighting that have seen government-aligned forces take control of two key towns north and south of the city.

News that government forces had arrived on the outskirts of Tikrit, which has been occupied by the Islamic State group since last summer, was greeted triumphantly on state television, with officials claiming the militants had withdrawn from the city and predicting a quick victory.

But officials have made similar claims in the past about the success of operations against the Islamic State - last summer about a failed mission to retake Tikrit, and most notably last fall about the town of Baiji - only to see the gains they claimed evaporate before fierce counterattacks.

Capturing the hometown of Saddam Hussein would be a big moral victory for the Shiite-led government in Baghdad. - McClatchy Newspapers

BRITAIN

Police: Girls not terrorists

Three British schoolgirls who traveled to Syria to join the Islamic State group won't be prosecuted for terrorism if they return, a senior British police officer said Tuesday. Police chiefs also defended their handling of the case, denying a lawmaker's allegation that the failure to stop the teens was "a huge blow" to the credibility of the force. Mark Rowley, head of counterterrorism for the Metropolitan Police, told lawmakers that "we have no evidence to support [the teens'] involvement in terrorism."    - AP

ZIMBABWE

Rights activist abducted

Itai Dzamara, a leading activist in Zimbabwe's antigovernment Occupy Africa Unity Square movement, was reported abducted Monday outside a barbershop in the capital, Harare. "The family of pro-democracy activist Itai Dzamara has filed a report with the police," Kumbirai Mafunda, a spokesman for Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, said in a statement. Four men in a white Isuzu twincab seized Dzamara, 36, from a sidewalk before fleeing, Mafunda said.    - Bloomberg