World Bulletin/News Desk
Iraqi army helicopters fired rockets on one of the largest mosques in the city of Tikrit on Friday, local officials and witnesses said.
It was unclear if there were any casualties in the strikes on Tikrit, the hometown of late dictator Saddam Hussein which was overrun by insurgents earlier this week.
ISIL militants fought Iraqi Shi'ite militia at two locations in Diyala province, a security source and a local official said.
The clashes took place in Udhaim, about 90 km (60 miles) north of Baghdad and in Muqdadiya, 80 km (50 miles) northeast of the capital.
Militants gained more ground in Iraq overnight, moving into two towns in the eastern province of Diyala after security forces abandoned their posts.
Security sources said the towns of Saadiyah and Jalawla had fallen to the insurgents, as well as several other villages around the Himreen mountains, which have long been a hideout for militants.
Kurdish peshmerga forces deployed more men to secure their political party offices in Jalawla before the insurgents arrived in the town. There were no confrontations between them.
The Iraqi army fired artillery at Saadiya and Jalawla from the nearby town of Muqdadiya, sending dozens of families fleeing towards Khaniqin near the Iranian border, security sources said.
Militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) overran the northern city of Mosul earlier this week and have since pressed south towards Baghdad in an onslaught against the Shi'ite-led government.
U.S. President Barack Obama threatened U.S. military strikes against the militants who want to establish their own state in Iraq and Syria.
The Kurds, who run their own autonomous region in the north, have taken advantage of the chaos to expand their territory, taking control of the oil-rich of Kirkuk and other areas outside the formal boundary of their enclave.
U.S. contractors in Iraq relocated
Meanwhile, top U.S. weapons maker Lockheed Martin Corp on Thursday said it was evacuating about two dozen employees from northern Iraq due to security concerns, and the U.S. State Department said other companies were relocating their workers as well.
"We can confirm that U.S. citizens, under contract to the Government of Iraq, in support of the U.S. Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program in Iraq, are being temporarily relocated by their companies due to security concerns in the area," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.
She declined to say how many contractors were being relocated and their location, but said the U.S. Embassy and consulates were still operating normally.
Lockheed spokesman Michael Rein said about 25 Lockheed employees were being evacuated from the Balad area in northern Iraq as part of a larger effort to ensure their safety given growing violence in the region.
Rein said it was too soon to say if shipments of the F-16 warplanes would be delayed as a result of the violence.
Iraqi Ambassador Lukman Faily was at Lockheed's Fort Worth, Texas, plant last week to accept delivery of the first of the F-16s that will form the centerpiece of the country's first air force since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
Faily told Reuters that Iraq was completing work on the air base in Balad where the new jets will be housed. He said some Iraqi pilots had already been trained to fly the new planes, and more were in training now.