Iraqi forces and mainly Shi’ite militiamen battling to wrest full control of the city of Tikrit from Islamic State militants paused their offensive on Saturday for a second day as they awaited reinforcements, a military source told Reuters:
More than 20,000 troops and Iranian-backed Shi’ite fighters entered Tikrit on Wednesday, having retaken areas to the north and south in Iraq’s biggest offensive against the militants yet. Islamic State fighters still hold about half the city and have booby-trapped buildings and laid improvised explosive devices and roadside bombs, the source in the local military command center told Reuters.
More “well-trained forces” were needed for the street-by-street battles that recapturing the city would require, the source said, speaking by phone from Tikrit. He did not give a timeline for their arrival. Victory for Iraq’s Shi’ite-led government in Tikrit against the Sunni insurgents could provide a major boost to its forces as a broader confrontation with Islamic State looms in Mosul, the largest city in the north.
“We do not need a large number, just one or two thousand. We need professional personnel and soldiers,” the source told Reuters. Military commanders had “reached a decision to halt the operation until a suitable, carefully set plan is in place” to break into central Tikrit, the source said.