Iraq PM seeks to reassure Tikrit's Sunnis before imminent Shi'ite assault

Iraq PM seeks to reassure Tikrit's Sunnis before imminent Shi'ite assault
By Alasdair Sandford with AFP, Reuters, AP
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Iraqi forces and largely Shi'ite militia, believed to be Iranian-backed, are poised to retake Tikrit from ISIL. The authorities say action is being taken in the face of fears for the majority Sunni po


Thousands of Iraqi soldiers are reported to be surrounding Tikrit ready to launch an assault against several hundred ISIL militants believed to remain in the town.

Eleven days after its offensive began, the Iraqi military claims the recapture of Saddam Hussein’s home town from the jihadists is not in doubt.

Government forces reportedly sent sporadic artillery fire into Tikrit on Thursday.

Iraqi soldiers, police and a force composed largely of Shi’ite militia entered Tikrit on Wednesday, taking control of its largest district in the north.

But amid fears of a massacre of majority Sunni civilians, the prime minister said measures were being taken to prevent abuses.

“There are infiltrators who want to tarnish our victories by committing crimes and serious violations against people’s security and property,” Haider al-Abadi told a rally in Baghdad.

“Therefore, we have issued strict orders to the security forces, police and commanders of the army and Hashid al-Shaabi,” he added, referring to the Shi’ite forces otherwise known as Popular Mobilisation Committees.

The top US military officer, the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General John Dempsey has also expressed concern over whether the Shit’ite militia, believed to be Iranian-backed, may seek retribution against Sunnis.

US forces have not been involved in the Tikrit operation.

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