Iraqi forces halt advance on IS group in Tikrit

Iraqi forces halt advance on IS group in Tikrit
Military suspends assault on IS positions to regroup and allow soldiers time to rest, according to military sources, while local leaders raise questions about Iran's role.
2 min read
07 March, 2015
Military sources said the pause was to give troops a chance to rest [AFP]

Iraqi military and local sources said on Saturday that the government forces and militias attacking Tikrit have stopped advancing for "tactical reasons".

The military sources said the halt followed the successful completion of the third phase of the plan, to give the Iraqi forces the chance to rest six days after beginning their assault.

An official in the Iraqi defence ministry told al-Araby al-Jadeed: "The advance on the city has stopped as part of prior plans. Clear progress has been made by completing the first three phases, namely, to cut supply lines used by the Islamic State group through Mosul and Kirkuk, dismantling enemy front line defences, including mine fields around the city, and finally, occupying forward positions around the city's perimeter.

"The suspension of military operations is temporary and is meant to give the attacking forces a chance to rest, while the artillery continues to degrade IS forces in the city before resuming the offensive."

He predicted the operations would be restarted within on Sunday.

     The suspension of military operations is temporary and is meant to give the attacking forces a chance to rest.

The pause in operations came as a tribal official in the wider Salaheddin province raised questions about the Iranian role in the Tikri offensive. Sheikh Mohammad al-Tikriti told al-Araby: "Iranian artillery batteries have caused huge destruction in the city, without any regard for civilian lives or infrastructure.

"No fewer than 200 shells landed in Tikrit on Friday and Saturday morning in an indiscriminate manner, as though the entire city has become a legitimate target".

He said hundreds of families remained trapped inside the city.

Falah Shukri, the leader in the Independent Iraqi Alliance in parliament, called on Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to clarify the nature of the role the Iranian troops are playing in Tikrit.

He said: "The prime minister must explain how Iran has intervened militarily and how it has come to bombard Iraqi cities." He said Iranian action was a real threat to national unity and could precipitate a major sectarian conflict.

"Abadi did not brief parliament or anyone in the government regarding the Iranian military intervention. This breaches the constitution."

Meanwhile, a doctor at Tikrit general hospital said that nine civilians were killed and 12 others were injured on Friday evening in a bombardment.

"All the victims are civilians. They were killed by shells that landed on their homes. We don’t know how many militant casualties there are because they are buried immediately," the doctor said.

This is an edited translation of the original Arabic.