More than 20,000 Iraqi troops and militiamen have surrounded the Sunni city of Tikrit and are preparing to assault the remaining Islamic State fighters in the coming days.
Iraqi forces, including some Iranian-backed Shi’ite fighters, flooded into the town of Tikrit Wednesday, but ran into heavy opposition including booby trapped buildings, snipers and roadside explosives.
Iraqi and allied Iranian forces control large areas of Tikrit, however, Iraqi forces are waiting for the arrival of more well trained forces to finish the liberation of Tikrit in a street-by-street sweep, a local military spokesman told Reuters.
We do not need a large number, just one or two thousand. We need professional personnel and soldiers.
Before entering Tikrit Wednesday, Iraqi forces first surrounded the area making it impossible for Islamic State fighters to escape.
The effort to retake Tikirt marks the largest Iraqi offensive against the Islamic State to date, according to Reuters.
The hometown of Saddam Hussein, Tikrit, was once home to 260,000 Iraqis before being overrun by Islamic State fighters last summer.
The militants were able to use the presidential palace built in Tikrit by Hussein as a headquarters.
After capturing Tikrit, their offensive was halted outside the capital city of Baghdad, but not before they captured the larger northern city of Mosul.
The liberation of Tikrit was an important milestone for Iraq’s government in the battle against the Islamic State, Iraqi Defense Minister Khaled al-Obedi told the BBC.
After liberating Tikrit the military plans to drive on to Mosul, the largest northern city.
The liberation of this city [Tikrit] and province will serve as a launch pad for reclaiming the north and the west of Iraq.
They are facing about 60 to 70 Islamic State fighters holed up in the center of the city of Tikrit surrounded by their booby traps and explosives, according to the USA Today.
Some local milita leaders have said it will be difficult to retake the city of Tikrit without the aid of U.S. air support to smash the buildings wired with explosives.
Hadi al-Amiri, the head of the Shi’ite paramilitary Badr Organization told Alarabiya News Iraqi forces would be victorious in their battle to liberate the city of Tikrit.
We are not in a hurry, but we have a plan and we are following it. Even if the battle drags on for two, three or four days that is okay. We will celebrate the liberation of Tikrit from the enemy.