In Final Push, Iraqi Forces Advance to Center of Tikrit + Video

Fri Mar 27, 2015 14:57:00

Iraqi Special Forces advanced on central Tikrit as U.S.-led coalition planes joined the largest offensive yet against ISIS militants holding out in Saddam’s home city, Reuters reported.

Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces and Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said today that the hour of salvation and victory in Salahuddin has come and the province is finally “coming home,” pointing that ISIS no longer has foothold in Iraq.

“ISIS can no longer keep its foothold thanks to the plans had been prepared in advance to the military operations by Iraq’s army,” he added.

The bodies of an estimated 150 ISIS fighters reportedly killed by coalition airstrikes have been transferred to morgues in the militant-held city of Mosul, a Kurdish official has told Rudaw.

Saeed Mamuzni, a Kurdistan Democratic Party official worked in Mosul until fleeing to Duhok, said on Thursday the deaths resulted from a wave of bombings carried out in the towns of Kaske Kask, Kalak, Khorbasad and in Mosul's Arabi neighborhood.

"Due to coalition airstrikes around Mosul over the past two days nearly 150 ISIS militants have been killed and the bodies were all transferred for Mosul morgues,” said Mamuzini.

The US department of Defence on Thursday released video of airstrikes on ISIS targets near the northern Iraqi city of Tikrit.

Two Shiite militia groups said they were suspending participation in the fight in response to the coalition's involvement, TREND News reports.

The airstrikes came as the commander of Iraq's military operations in Salahuddin province said government forces launched the final phase of an offensive to recapture the ISIS-held city.

Lieutenant General Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi said Iraqi troops and Special Forces have begun moving toward the centre of Tikrit, the hometown of the late former Iraqi leader Saddam.

A spokesman for Iraq's Defense Ministry said the coalition had carried out 17 strikes in Tikrit so far, in addition to 24 by Iraq's own airforce.

Earlier on Thursday, Iraqi Defense Minister Khalid Obeidi said that Tikrit was completely surrounded by the country's military and local militias.

The ISIS group seized the Sunni city last summer during its lightning advance across northern Iraq.

According to AP, At Iraq's request, the US began airstrikes on Tikrit on Wednesday in support of the stalled ground offensive.

The operation to retake Tikrit was launched on March 2 but had failed to dislodge a relatively small number of IS fighters who have hemmed themselves in with thousands of bombs for a last stand in the city centre.

The forces involved in the fighting include the volunteer Popular Mobilisation units, militia groups, the army’s counter-terrorism force as well as interior ministry units.

Iraqi forces retook the area surrounding Tikrit in the first week of the campaign early this month and entered some districts of the city itself, which had been overrun last June by ISIS.

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