Iraqi troops helped by Shi'ite paramilitary fighters have reclaimed key areas of the Sunni city of Tikrit after battling Islamic State militants there for nearly a month.
Iraqi forces have reclaimed key areas of the Sunni city of Tikrit after fighting Islamic State militants for nearly a month.
Government security forces and Shi’ite paramilitary fighters seized control of the governor’s headquarters and the main hospital there, in the hometown of former president Saddam Hussein.
“The Iraqi Federal Police have achieved an overwhelming victory over Islamic State extremists and we were able to defeat them,” said its commander Lieutenant General Raed Shakir Jawdat,.
ISIL militants had seized Tikrit last June as they raced across northern Iraq.
Iranian-backed Shi’ite factions fighting alongside the Iraqi forces had insisted that they did not need US military help to retake the mostly Sunni city.
But the battle to reclaim it has not been an easy one. ISIL had posted snipers and rigged the city with explosives to defend its positions.
The government forces’ advance on Tuesday saw Shi’ite militia groups return to battle after they had frozen their operations last Thursday – in protest against U.S.-led air strikes requested by Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi .
The U.S. government, which deeply mistrusts the pro-Iranian Shi’ite militias, has insisted on an Iraqi government military command for the fight, even as Shi’ite militia forces remain the strongest force on the ground.