Iraqi forces try to seal off Islamic State around Tikrit




 
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March 3rd, 2015  
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Topic: Iraqi forces try to seal off Islamic State around Tikrit


By Ahmed Rasheed and Dominic Evans BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Thousands of Iraqi soldiers and Shi'ite militiamen sought to seal off Islamic State fighters in Tikrit and nearby towns on Tuesday, the second day of Iraq's biggest offensive yet against a stronghold of the Sunni militants. Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani, who has helped coordinate Baghdad's counter-attacks against Islamic State since it seized much of northern Iraq in June, was overseeing at least part of the operation, witnesses told Reuters. His presence on the frontline highlights neighbouring Iran's influence over the Shi'ite fighters who have been key to containing the militants in Iraq. In contrast, the U.S.-led air coalition which has been attacking Islamic State across Iraq and Syria has not yet played a role in Tikrit, the Pentagon said on Monday, perhaps partly because of the high-level Iranian presence.




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