Iraq said on Monday it had put its Tikrit offensive on a hold and senior officials called for more air strikes to dislodge the Islamic State militants who have laid explosives across Saddam Hussein’s home city and still hold its central districts. Reuters have more:
The offensive, the largest yet against insurgents who swept through northern Iraq in June, has been stalled for four days after Iraqi security forces and mainly Shi’ite militia pushed into Tikrit last week. They have struggled to gain further ground against the militants who are holed up in a vast complex of palaces built when Saddam was in power.
Military officials in Tikrit said there was no fighting on Monday in the city that was home to more than 250,000 people before it was overrun last year.
Government forces are in control of most of the northern Qadisiya district as well as the southern and western outskirts of the city, trapping the militants in an area bounded by the river that runs through Tikrit. Though Iraqi forces and allied militiamen may have the insurgents in a chokehold, officials are increasingly citing air power as necessary to drive out the remaining insurgents.
“We need air support from any force that can work with us against IS,” Deputy Minister of Defense Ibrahim al-Lami told Reuters, declining to say whether he meant from the U.S.-led coalition or Iran, which is playing a role in the assault.