PHOTO: Iraqi militia preparing weaponry outside Tikrit (Khalid Mohammed/AP)
Awaiting reinforcements, Iraqi forces have paused for a second day in their offensive to take Tikrit from the Islamic State.
An official in the local military command center said commanders had “reached a decision to halt the operation until a suitable, well-defined plan is in place” to move into central Tikrit.
The source did not give a time for the arrival of “well-trained forces” to support the offensive: We do not need a large number, just one or two thousand. We need professional personnel and soldiers.”
The Iraqi troops and Shia militiamen took about half of Tikrit by Thursday, but face street-by-street battles, booby-trapped buildings, and improvised explosive devices and roadside bombs.
Tikrit, about 160 km (100 miles) north of Baghdad, was captured by the Islamic State in its lightning offensive last June through northern and eastern Iraq.
Up to 30,000 troops and militiamen, as well as Iranian commanders, are involved in the offensive.
Army and militia forces pushed into Saddam Hussein’s home city this week in their biggest drive yet against the insurgents who seized large swathes of land in Iraq and neighbouring Syria last year in a lightning campaign halted just outside Baghdad. [ID:nL5N0WF2YW]
More than 20,000 troops and allied militias entered the city about 160 km (100 miles) north of the capital on Wednesday after retaking towns to the south and north in a campaign launched nearly two weeks ago.