Wednesday, April 1, 2015
Iraqi army recaptures most of Tikrit
Iraqi government forces have made major advances against Islamic State (IS) militants in Tikrit, officials say.Army officials claimed on Tuesday that as much of 75% of the city had been recaptured, including the city centre and government headquarters, but not yet the palace of formere president Saddam Hussein.
There are about 3,000 Iraqi soldiers and police fighting to liberate the city, with support from about 20,000 Iran-backed Shia militias, known collectively as the Popular Mobilisation units, as well as local tribesman and residents. The Shia militias eralier said that theu=y would boycot fighting as long as the US was carrying out air strikes. Some of the militias, though, appear to have reversed this decision.
IS militants seized Tiqrit last summer. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Twitter that Tikrit, which was Saddam Hussein's hometown, had been "liberated" from IS occupation, but reports said fighting for large parts of the city was ongoing.
Tuesday's advances are the most significant in the government offensive in the city, which began on 2 March but was stalled as it waited for air support and ground reinforcements. Recapturing Tikrit is seen as strategically vital in the battle for Mosul, Iraq's second largest city. Mosul, which is north of Tikrit along the Tigris river, was captured by IS in June last year during a lightning advance across the country.