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Iraqi Ground Forces, U.S. Air Strikes Focus On IS-Held Tikrit

Iraqi security forces continue to battle Islamic State (IS) militants in central Tikrit as the United States and its allies provide air support.

But local officials warn that the battle to retake the Sunni Muslim city and hometown of the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein will not be quick.

Mayor Osama al-Tikriti has said it will be too difficult to achieve a rapid advance into the city because the ground is littered with bombs and booby-traps.

Further complicating the ground assault on Tikrit has been the exit from the offensive of most Iranian-backed Shi’ite militia fighters that had been fighting alongside government forces.

Shi’ite militia groups have provided the largest number of fighters to the offensive in the area that began on March 2.

But operations slowed after weeks of heavy casualties and tensions within the government and with U.S. officials over Iran's prominent role supporting the Shi'ite militia.

IS fighters, led by Sunni extremists, stormed into Tikrit in June 2014 during a rapid advance across northern and western Iraq.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP