Iraq puts Tikrit operation on hold to allow civilians to leave

Iraqi volunteer fighters celebrate as they advance into Tikrit, 160 km north of Baghdad, during a military operation to regain the city from ISIL Takfiri militants, on March 11, 2015. (AFP photo)

Iraqi volunteer fighters celebrate as they advance into Tikrit, 160 km north of Baghdad, during a military operation to regain the city from ISIL Takfiri militants, on March 11, 2015. (AFP photo)

Iraqi forces have temporarily put on hold their military operation to take back Tikrit from the Takfiri ISIL militants to allow civilians to leave the northern city.

Iraq’s Interior Minister Mohammed Salem al-Ghabban made the announcement in the nearby city of Samarra on Monday, adding that the offensive has so far managed to achieve 90 percent of its objectives.

He added that the ISIL terrorists have been forced to gather in a small part of the city center.

The ISIL extremist group has booby-trapped buildings and roads leading to Tikrit, therefore, Iraqi forces, backed by volunteer fighters have decreased the speed of their push to reduce their own causalities, protect the infrastructure and let residents leave, Ghabban said.

The minister did not specify when the operations would restart, saying that is being “left to the field commanders.”

Speaking from Tikrit, Press TV correspondent Rahshan Saglam said the ISIL extremists are using car bombs against Iraqi forces and allied fighters, citing the ISIL use of Tikriti “citizens as human shields” as the reason behind the suspension of the operation to let them leave.

Iraqi government forces supported by Shia and Sunni volunteers launched a massive operation early this month to clear Tikrit of the ISIL militants.

Tikrit, the birthplace of former Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, fell to the ISIL in June last year.

The city’s recapture is crucial for the Iraqi army in its ongoing quest to wrest control of the country’s second-largest city, Mosul, situated some 400 kilometers (248 miles) north of Baghdad, from the Takfiri group.

ISIL started its campaign of terror in Iraq in early June 2014.

By Press TV