Islamic State group under pressure in Tikrit

Islamic State group under pressure in Tikrit
The armed group has been forced to retreat from areas around the city, as fighting continues to rage in Iraq.
3 min read
10 March, 2015
Popular Mobilisation fighters celebrate a victory against the Islamic State group [AFP]
Joint forces trying to retake Tikrit from the Islamic State group have made significant advances in the suburbs of the city as operations enter their second week in Iraq.

Anti-IS forces have recaptured the town of Al-Dawr and large parts of Al-Awja, as well as around 50 percent of Al Bu-Ajil town to the south of Tikrit. They were, however, forced to retreat from eastern parts of Al-Alam district because of intense fighting and mines planted by IS fighters on the road.

"Following intense battles over the past 24 hours, Iraqi forces manage to establish full control of the city of Al-Dawr, large parts of Al Bu-Ajil, as well as the old city of al-Awja," a senior defence ministry official told al-Araby al-Jadeed.

Ground units were reinforced by troops from a friendly neighbouring state, he added, referring to Iran.

has learned that Iranian-made heavy artillery was used in the fighting, along with scores of Iranian Revolutionary Guard fighters. This was confirmed by the Iraqi government and military sources as well as by US officials.

     Local humanitarian organisations in Baghdad estimate there are around 8,000 civilians, mostly women and children, still inside Tikrit.

Air cover

An Iraqi army colonel said IS suffered huge military and materiel losses, and confirmed the group was forced to withdraw from Al Dawr, Al Bu-Ajil and the old city of Al Awja.

"These areas are now under the control of the Iraqi forces that are resting before resuming their advance this evening," he added.

The IS group, however, has succeeded in pushing back advances in the north and east of Tikrit, using landmines and sniper fire. "Air raids are being carried out to neutralise IS gunfire before the advance resumes," the official added.

Ziad Obeid, a spokesman for the Salah ad Din province's local government, which is temporarily operating out of Baghdad, told al-Araby al-Jadeed: "Today's battles caused both sides huge losses, but IS has lost large areas under its control."

Obeid explained that today's air raids against IS were carried out by Iraqi planes, and no coalition aircraft were involved. "Today’s advance is the most successful since the operation began, with entire areas in the south of Tikrit being retaken from IS," he added.

Civilians trapped

The local government has coordinated with the Iraqi Red Crescent and the ICRC to try and create safe corridors to allow families stranded in the city to leave, Obeid added.

Meanwhile, Hakem al-Zamili, head of the Iraqi parliament's security and defence committee, denied popular mobilisation militias had kidnapped 50 families leaving Tikrit.

"Popular mobilisation members drove the families to the city of Samarra after they left Tikrit," he said.

Local humanitarian organisations in Baghdad estimate there are around 8,000 civilians - mostly women and children - still inside Tikrit, unable to leave the city.

"Those on both sides should help those trapped in the city leave or stop the indiscriminate bombing immediately," Mohamed Ali, head of the Iraqi Peace Organisation for Human Rights, told al-Araby. He said civilians trapped in the city had enough food and water to last two or three days at most.

Al-Araby has received information that three senior IS leaders have been killed in Tikrit.

Sheikh Abu Hamza al-Iraqi, Hamid al-Kenani, an Egyptian, and Abdullah al-Ansari are believed to have been killed in a series of US drone attacks on Thursday. Ansari was reportedly in charge of the group's Sharia court.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.