Iraqi Premier Says Tikrit Recaptured From Islamic State | WHAT REALLY HAPPENED


Iraqi Premier Says Tikrit Recaptured From Islamic State

However U.S. military officials said they were unable to confirm the assertion and expressed skepticism that the fight for the Sunni city was all but over.

BAGHDAD—Iraq’s prime minister said Tuesday that security forces have recaptured the strategic city of Tikrit after a monthlong battle.

However U.S. military officials said they were unable to confirm the assertion and expressed skepticism that the fight for the Sunni city was all but over. The U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State has been conducting airstrikes since last week to aid Iraqi forces trying to retake Tikrit.

If confirmed, the recapture of Tikrit would be the greatest victory yet against Islamic State insurgents since the Sunni extremist group seized swaths of the country last summer.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi claimed the recapture of the city in a speech on state television.

Shortly after the initial announcement, the prime minister’s spokesman told state television that Iraqi forces had reached the center of the city and raised the Iraqi flag atop a provincial headquarters as troops continued to clear the city of insurgents.

“The successful experience of Tikrit will be repeated in other areas,” said Mr. Abadi, who lauded the security forces for “protection of civilians and the few casualties among security forces.”

Success in Tikrit would mark a major victory for Iraq’s military and its Shiite militia allies against the Sunni militants, bringing to an end more than four weeks of fighting.

The city was the hometown of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, whose decades of rule ended with a 2003 U.S.-led invasion that led to the installation of the current Shiite-dominated regime.

The offensive to reclaim Tikrit—the second-largest Iraqi city under Islamic State control—had been seen as a test of preparedness for the Iraqi army and its allies, prior to a planned offensive on Mosul, also controlled by the militants. Iraqi security forces and U.S. military officials have said they hope to begin the offensive on Iraq’s second city later this year.

The weekslong battle in Tikrit pitched tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers, Iranian fighters and Shiite militias against a few thousand Islamic State fighters. Iraq began its attack without alerting the U.S., which is leading a coalition that has been striking key Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria from the air since last autumn.

After a rapid initial advance, Iraqi security forces stalled in the center of Tikrit, where Islamic State fighters holed up in Mr. Hussein’s former palaces. The stall prompted the Iraqi government to ask Washington for aerial support. This move infuriated the Shiite militias that felt it cast doubt on their ability to see the operation through and undermined their credibility on the ground.

In his statements Tuesday, Mr. Abadi thanked the various factions who participated in the recapture.

“The liberation of Tikrit was carried out by the efforts of the Iraqi army and police, public mobilization units, tribal forces and the people of Tikrit city. It was carried out under air cover and concentrated bombardment by the Iraqi air force, army air force and the international coalition against the terrorists of ISIS, ” he said, using an acronym for Islamic State.

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