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Shiite militias, Iraqi troops enter central Tikrit
Iraqi troops and Iranian-backed Shiite militias entered central Tikrit alongside Iraqi troops today after days of US airstrikes weakened Islamic State forces holed up in the city. The militias entered Tikrit despite US military officials' claims the the groups had disengaged from the fight.
The militias and Iraqi troops took control of the governor's compound and the hospital in the city center, Reuters reported.
"Our security forces have reached the center of Tikrit and they have liberated the southern and western sides and they are moving towards the control of the whole city," Prime Minister Haidar al Abadi said, according to a statement that was obtained by the news agency.
Both Asaib al Haq (the League of the Righteous) and Hezbollah Brigades, two Shiite militias that have killed hundreds of US soldiers in Iraq, entered Tikrit despite news reports that claimed the groups would abstain from fighting and withdraw from the city while the US launched airstrikes. Hezbollah Brigades, which is listed by the US as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, released video of its fighters firing US-made M198 towed artillery pieces in support of the Tikrit operation.
Harakat Nujaba, a group which is led by a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, claimed that it liberated Qasidiyah district in Tikrit.
The Islamic State is said to still hold three neighborhoods in Tikrit. Hundreds of fighters or more are said to have dug in inside the city, and have used underground tunnels to move.
Despite the overt involvement of the Shiite militias, the US continued airstrikes in the capital of Salahaddin province. Today, US Central Command noted that aircraft "struck multiple ISIL [Islamic State ] buildings."
Senior US military commanders have insisted that support for the Tikrit operations would only be forthcoming if Shiite militias were withdrawn from the battlefield. Yet the Pentagon's spokesman admitted that the militias, which operate under the aegis of the Popular Mobilization Committee, were involved in the fight. The Popular Mobilization Committee is also led by a Specially Designated Global Terrorist. The US government described him as an "adviser" to the commander of Qods Force, Iran's external operations branch.
The US military has not explained why it continues to support Shiite militias, some whose leaders continue to threaten Americans, in their quest to take control of Tikrit.
[Source: By Bill Roggio & Caleb Weiss, The Long War Journal, NJ, 31Mar15]
War in Iraq
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