The tomb of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein has been destroyed in fighting near Tikrit where Iraqi forces supported by Iran-backed Shi'ite militias have been trying to take control of the city from Islamic State (Isis) militants.

The once large octagonal, domed building in Awja, 150km north of Baghdad, was severely damaged. The building appeared to have been burned then destroyed, while the dome was damaged but remained largely intact.

Fearful that Shi'ite militias would harm the tomb, Hussein's Sunni tribal allies moved his body from a family plot early last year.

The tribal chief would not give details on where Hussein's body was taken.

On 13 December 2003, after eight months on the run, the elusive former Iraqi president was finally captured by US troops after he was discovered hiding in a hole in the ground near his home town of Tikrit.

He was hanged in 2006 after being convicted of crimes against humanity for the killing of 148 Shi'ite villagers after a failed assassination bid in 1982.

Iraq said on 16 March it had put its Tikrit offensive on hold and senior officials called for more air strikes to dislodge IS militants who have laid explosives across Hussein's home city and still hold its central districts.

The offensive, the largest yet against IS insurgents, has been stalled for four days after Iraqi security forces and mainly Shi'ite militia pushed into Tikrit last week.