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Iraqi operation to take Tikrit from ISIL 'on hold'

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Iraqi operation to take Tikrit from ISIL 'on hold'


The Iraqi military has released pictures purporting to show recent airstrikes against ISIL targets, claiming that the operation against the jihadists north of Baghdad is going to plan.

The video distributed by the Ministry of Defence showed black smoke billowing from targets, from strikes said to have taken place on Wednesday (March 11).

But the offensive to take Tikrit, the home city of executed former President Saddam Hussein, seems to have stalled. One commander said there would be no further advance until reinforcements arrived.

Forces loyal to the influential Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr known as the “Peace Brigades” were reported to be preparing to join the government offensive.

The army backed by Shi’ite militia has taken control of part of the city but the self-proclaimed Islamic State claim to be holding out.

Iraq’s defence minister was upbeat during a visit to the frontline on Thursday.

“Judging by what I have seen and heard over the past few hours, I think that the situation is very good. I think that the tide of Tikrit’s liberation will be very close, even closer than calculated expectations,” Khaled Al-Obeidi said.

The Iraqi and Shi’ite forces, 20,000 strong, are camped around Tikrit.

The ISIL jihadists have employed guerrilla tactics to keep them at bay, deploying snipers and planting booby-traps – while street fighting has been reported with Iraqi security forces who entered the city.

They still control the former presidential complex and at least three central districts.

For Iraqi forces, Tikrit is a vital stepping-stone on the road to Mosul, the largest city under ISIL control.

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