Iraqi Forces To Liberate Tikrit Within 72 Hours: Spokesman

TIKRIT (Iraq), March 14 (Bernama) — Iraqi security forces fighting to free the besiege city of Tikrit planned to clear the city from the Islamic State (IS) militants within 72 hours, China’s Xinhua news agency reported a militia spokesman as saying on Saturday.

The city “will be liberated within 72 hours,” Karim al-Nouri, a leading figure of the Shiite party Badr Organisation and the spokesman of the government-backed militia of al-Hashed al-Shaabi, said in the town of Awja, south of Tikrit.

The Iraqi troops and government-backed Shiite and Sunni militias since Tuesday have carried out a major offensive to free Tikrit and gained some ground in the city, some 170 km north of the Iraqi capital Baghdad.

However, they have been moving slowly and cautiously amid heavy clashes with the militants, including a large number of IS snipers, while they also have to deal with hundreds of roadside bombs and booby-trapped houses.

Al-Nouri’s remarks came a day after a meeting between security leaders and Hadi al-Ameri, head of the Badr Organisation, about the operations to free the city, a security source told Xinhua.

The meeting came out with a decision to bring more forces from the Bar Organization, which is better equipped and well-trained on urban warfare.

The Badr Organization was previously known as Badr Brigade which maintains its longtime ties with the neighboring Iran, where it was first built during the eight-year Iraqi-Iranian war in 1980s.

Ameri’s Brigade emerged as powerful militia during the years after the U.S.-led invasion to Iraq in 2003 and turned to be a political organization a few years later.

The Badr Brigade was the military wing of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, a Shiite party headed by Shiite cleric Ammar al-Hakim.

Some 30,000 Iraqi troops and thousands of allied Shiite and Sunni militias have been involved in the week-long operation to recapture Tikrit and other key towns and villages in the northern part of Salahudin province from IS militants.

Large parts of the province have been under IS control since June 2014, after bloody clashes broke out between Iraqi security forces and the group.

The IS has taken control of the country’s northern city of Mosul and later seized swathes of territories in Nineveh and other predominantly Sunni provinces.