Breakthrough against ISIS in Iraq?

Breakthrough against ISIS in Iraq?
© Getty Images

Iraqi Security Forces have liberated the city of Tikrit from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced Tuesday. 

Al-Abadi made the announcement to Iraqi media, but also on Twitter. 

The "popular volunteers" is a reference to Shia militia controlled by the Iraqi Ministry of Defense. 

However, it is not clear whether the battle for Tikrit is actually over. 

Al-Abadi's spokesman Rafid Jaboori told Agence France Presse that "Iraqi forces reached the centre of Tikrit, raised the Iraqi flag and are now clearing the city."

The Pentagon issued a statement several hours later to confirm Abadi's announcement. 

"We can confirm ISF's advancement into Tikrit to liberate the city center as well as other parts of the city from ISIL," it said in a statement, using an alternate name for ISIS. "The coalition will continue to provide support to the ISF as they continue to operate in the area."  

Iraqi Security Forces began an offensive to retake the city from ISIS on March 2, and victory would be a huge blow to ISIS, which captured the city last summer.

Initially, the U.S. refrained from taking part in the operation, due to the participation of an Iran-backed Shia militia. 

However, the operation had stalled in recent days, prompting Iraq last week to formally request the U.S. conduct airstrikes in Tikrit. 

The U.S. began striking targets last week, after the Iraqi government agreed that the Iran-backed Shia militia they would not take part in the offensive, according to U.S. officials.

Some reports say that the militia had objected to U.S. airstrikes, and they left after the U.S.-led coalition began to conduct them in Tikrit.

Iran has sent commanders and troops into Iraq to assist forces in the fight against ISIS, which has raised questions over whether the U.S. was cooperating with Iran in Iraq. 

U.S. officials deny any cooperation with Iran, and say Iraqi officials are responsible for coordinating U.S. and Iranian efforts in Iran.

 

-- Updated 6:30 p.m.