Iraqi forces 'hope to take Tikrit from IS in a week'

IS militants still held about 70% of Tikrit's town centre

Baku. 14 March. REPORT.AZ/ Iraqi forces hope to retake the city of Tikrit from Islamic State (IS) within a week, a commander has told the BBC.

The head of one of the Shia militia brigades fighting alongside government forces said that IS militants still held about 70% of Tikrit's town centre. But he said Tikrit would be "liberated" even if it required street-to-street fighting.

Soldiers and militiamen have reportedly retaken key sites including a police headquarters and a hospital.

The BBC's Jonathan Beale in Tikrit says the sound of artillery and small arms fire can be heard only a few kilometres from the city centre.

Muain al-Khmdy, a commander of the Iranian-backed Badr Brigade, told the BBC that pro-government forces would surround IS-held areas of the city and then attack, aiming to drive IS fighters from their positions.

Several hundred militants are believed to be holding out in Tikrit, our correspondent says.

The pro-government force ranged against them includes about 3,000 Iraqi troops with 20,000 Shia militiamen and a much smaller force of Sunni tribesmen.

Earlier, Iraqi Defence Minister Khaled al-Obedi told the BBC that recapturing Tikrit could be a turning point in the battle against IS.

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