Countdown to Liberation Tikrit Already Begins: Iraq Army

Countdown to Liberation Tikrit Already Begins: Iraq Army
Mon Feb 9, 2015 09:00:32

The countdown to the liberation of Tikrit from the ISIS is already under way, the Iraqi military official who heads the operation told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Lt. Gen. Abdul Wahab Al-Saadi, the head of military operations for the Salah Al-Din governorate, whose provincial capital is Tikrit, said Iraqi army forces supported by Shiite volunteer militias were now on their way to completely wresting control of the city from ISIS, now that government forces had liberated the nearby town of Baiji and surrounding areas.

The Iraqi security forces on Sunday retook control of an oil refinery town in Iraq’s northern central province of Salahudin after three days of clashes with the ISIS militants.

Thousands of Iraqi soldiers and Shiite militiamen backed by Iraqi aircraft pushed into the central part of the town of Baiji, some 200 km north of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, after heavy clashes with the ISIS terrorists.

The troops later advanced to the north and managed to break the siege of other forces who were trapped for weeks inside Iraq’s largest oil refinery, just north of the town.

Saadi said it was now essential for the army to cut off all supply routes to the town in order to help flush out any remaining ISIS fighters in the region, and stop it from moving reinforcements into the area.

Volunteers from the Iraqi Shi'ite Badr Army militia take up position near Tikrit, northern Iraq

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Yazan Al-Jabouri, a senior member of a pro-government militia, said the “first page” of the Tikrit offensive had been turned now that all routes into and out of the area had been secured and cut off from ISIS, adding that volunteer militias were playing a central role in this phase of the campaign.

The “second page” of the offensive will come “within a month,” he said, and will comprise the “complete liberation” of the city.

Following that, the operation to liberate Mosul, also taken by ISIS last June, could fully begin. Freeing that city can only start once Tikrit and its environs and surrounding routes are secure, Jabouri said, as this would leave Iraqi government forces heading north to Mosul from Tikrit exposed to attacks by ISIS.

Iraqi offensive against ISIS to begin 'within weeks'

Gen John Allen, who co-ordinates the international coalition against the ISIS terrorists, says ground troops will be backed by aerial firepower.

Iraqi troops will begin a ground offensive "in the weeks ahead" to take back swaths of the country seized by the ISIS/ISIl according to the US coordinator for the international coalition against the terrorists.

"There will be a major counter offensive on the ground in Iraq," said Gen John Allen in an interview with Jordan's official Petra news agency.

US General John Allen

He added that Iraqi ground troops would be backed by coalition firepower.

And Gen Allen dismissed accusations that there has been a delay in the supply of US weapons and training to Iraqi troops on the frontline of the conflict, telling Petra: "The United States is doing all it can to deliver its support as quickly as possible."

The US has been leading an aerial campaign against the terrorist, who have seized territory across Iraq and Syria, imposing a brutal form of Islamic law, the Telegraph report.

Jordan, part of the coalition, announced on Sunday that it had conducted dozens of air strikes on ISIL targets after the group burned one of its air force pilots to death and released a gruesome video of the murder.

Squadron of United Arab Emirates (UAE) F-16 fighters arriving in one of Jordan's air bases to support it in strikes against the ISIS group.

John Kerry, US Secretary of State, said the assault was beginning to win back territory and deprive the terrorists of key funds.
There have been 2,000 air strikes on ISIL since the coalition formed in August, Mr Kerry told the Munich Security Conference on Sunday.

Details of a planned spring offensive were leaked last year, suggesting the objective was to cut ISIL’s supply lines to Syria, force them back to Iraq's second biggest city Mosul, and retake it by the end of 2015.

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