US-Iranian-Iraqi alliance battles Islamic State group in Tikrit

US-Iranian-Iraqi alliance battles Islamic State group in Tikrit
As the battle over Tikrit continues, further concerns are being raised about citizens trapped in the city.
3 min read
03 March, 2015
Iraqi fighters prepare for battle with the Islamic State group in Tikrit [Anadolu]
The Iraqi operation to retake the city of Tikrit from the Islamic State group (IS, formerly known as Isis) has caused concern about civilians trapped in the city.

IS fighters seized control of Saddam Hussein's hometown in June 2014.

The operation began yesterday with a massive aerial bombardment, as Iraqi forces backed by Iraqi militias and dozens of Iranian Revolutionary Guards troops tried to advance.

"Over 49 airstrikes were carried out in the first five hours of the attack, and dozens of rockets and hundreds of artillery shells were fired into the city," a military official told reporters.

At the launch of the assault, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Iraqi forces were determined to achieve victory, and that he had ordered attacking forces to ensure the safety of civilians.

General Mohammad Hussein from the Rapid Intervention Regiment, an Iraqi Shia militia deployed near Tikrit, told Al-Araby al-Jadeed that more than 20,000 Iraqi soldiers were taking part, including three special forces regiments trained by the US military.

Hussein said the attack was being supervised by US consultants and retired officers, and US, French, and Iraqi air forces were also involved.

     Iraqi forces and the international coalition are using a scorched earth policy that they may repeat in other cities like Mosul.
- A member of Salahuddin provincial council

The attack has no public timetable, but could last a week or more, according to an Iraqi military official.

"Iraqi forces and the international coalition are using a scorched earth policy that they may repeat in other cities like Mosul," 
a member of Salahuddin provincial council told al-Araby.

He said attacking forces had hit mosques, schools and homes, as well as water pumps and power stations. He also claimed planes hovering over the city were targeting moving cars, preventing residents from fleeing.

Abadi has been asked for a ceasefire to allow civilians to leave the city. If this does not happen many more will die, the council member argued.

The deputy chairman of Salahuddin tribal council, Sheikh Abdullah al-Hardan, said there were thousands of troops on the ground backed by rockets and other artillery. He said the government should have evacuated Tikrit before the operation began.

However, a prominent leader in the Iraqi Hizballah militia - not to be confused with its Lebanese namesake - who is near the city, claims it is empty of civilians. 

"All those left there will be considered to be enemies. We will take no prisoners," Sheikh Jaafar Abed Rida told Al-Araby.

Hadi al-Ameri, of the Badr militia, also called on civilians still in the city to leave.

Local residents have asked Iraqi President Fuad Masum, Abadi, and parliament speaker Salim al-Jubouri to save them from the fighting. They told al-Araby they feared a "genocide" would be carried out against them after remarks made by militia leaders.

The operation to retake Tikrit is the first time Iranian and Iraqi government and militia forces have fought with the support of US and French warplanes. This has led observers to conclude it is an important mission for the international coalition and Iraqi government.

Tikrit is strategic for IS because it links Iraq's northern cities with its western provinces, which the radical group has controlled for many months.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.