Iraqi forces have launched a military operation to remove Islamic extremist group the Islamic State (IS) from the town of Tikrit and wider Sunni Muslim province of Salahuddin. In what is Iraqi security forces’ largest military operation in the province since IS’ offensive began in 2014, Iraqi TV have reported Iraqi soldiers being backed by fighter jets in their ongoing offensive. Police and militiamen have also been taking part in the attack. Speaking ahead of the advance on Sunday evening, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi offered a pardon to all Sunni tribal fighters who deserted IS. Tikrit was captured by IS in June 2014, and was the terror group’s second major territorial gain in Iraq after the city of Mosul. While Iraqi forces intend to eventually retake Mosul, the pace of its counter-offensive will depend on the outcome of operations in Tikrit.
Plans to generate energy from tidal lagoons for the first time in Britain have been unveiled. Under the plans, four lagoon power stations would be built in Wales, with one each built in Somerset and Cumbria. One station planned for Swansea at a cost of £1 billion expects to power 155,000 homes. The firm behind the Swansea project has said that while initial costs would be high, subsequent stations could be produced more cheaply, producing 8 percent of the UK’s energy for a £30 billion investment. Energy Secretary Ed Davey has expressed his support for the project. The development could be funded by taxpayers under a government scheme promoting low-carbon UK energy. The power stations would capture moving tidal water behind sea walls, using the weight of the water to power turbines.
Prince William has met Chinese President Xi Jinping, as part of the Prince’s royal tour of Japan and China. During the visit, William presented President Xi with a formal invitation from the Queen to make a formal state visit to Britain. William’s visit is the highest-profile visit to China by a UK royal in 30 years. President Xi hailed the royal family’s positive contribution to the development of the UK-China relationship. During William’s visit, the Prince hopes to promote “brand Britain” and highlight issues such as the illegal wildlife trade. William will later fly to Shanghai, where he will launch the Great Festival of Creativity, a three-day business exhibition.
Terrorism and defence make a few headlines again today. The Guardian leads with further coverage of UK Islamic State jihadist Mohammed Emwazi – also known as ‘Jihadi John’ – with former colleagues of Emwazi describing him as “the best employee we ever had”. Emwazi had been a “model IT salesman”, the paper writes. The Daily Telegraph, meanwhile, leads with a warning from a US military chief that “Britain cannot cut more troops”. General Raymond Odierno said that should reductions continue, the UK “could be reduced to operating ‘inside’ American units”. Knock-on effects from the conflict in Ukraine make the headlines in the Financial Times, with the paper reporting that Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman “vows to fight” a UK blocking of his bid to acquire a North Sea gas field. The Department for Energy blocked the bid over concerns of economic sanctions against Russia. In other news, The Independent writes that the BBC “accepts the end of the licence fee”. The BBC’s Director General is to back proposals from a committee of MPs recommending the replacement of the TV licence with a universal broadcasting levy.
British Media on China
On Prince William’s visit to China: William’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping earned coverage from most news outlets in the UK. The BBC notes the Prince’s passion for elephant protection, writing that while the visit may help highlight the issue, over the course of the three-day visit William “will have to move nimbly to dodge the elephants in the room”. The Daily Telegraph features picture and video reports on top of its standard coverage, an agency piece which writes that the Prince set aside “disagreements over Hong Kong” to make the visit. The Guardian writes that the visit is a “boost for ties with Beijing”, noting that Prince Charles has previously had an “uneasy relationship with the country”.