The United States coalition has launched air strikes against Islamic State positions in Tikrit late Wednesday as Iraqi forces resumed their campaign to dislodge ISIS from the city.
The strikes were requested by Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi to help his army’s struggling ground offensive. US planes had not struck at Tikrit before, though they have launched many airstrikes elsewhere in the country.
The 20,000-strong Iraqi force, largely comprising Iranian-backed Shiite militias, had been stalled for two weeks, weakened by casualties and hidden bombs.
US Lieutenant-General James Terry, commanding general of the international coalition, said the strikes were “intended to destroy ISIL strongholds with precision, saving innocent Iraqi lives while minimising collateral damage to infrastructure”.
But the US involvement is not universally welcomed by anti-ISIS forces. The commander of the powerful Badr Shi’ite militia, Hadi al-Ameri, has expressed his disapproval of US support for Tikrit.
“Some of the weaklings in the army… say we need the Americans, while we say we do not need the Americans,” he told the media at Camp Ashraf, North of Baghdad, on Sunday.
The Iraqi forces advanced into the Salaheddin province in early March, encircling ISIS strongholds and capturing part of the Qadisaya district.
Reclaiming the predominantly Sunni city of Tikrit, captured by ISIS last June, would be Baghdad’s first major win against the extremists, improving access to and control of major highways in the province. – Compiled from web sources by Jion Legaspi
Top image: screengrab from a GlobalLeaks News video.