A military vehicle, belonging to Shi’ite fighters known as Hashid Shaabi, burns after being hit by Islamic State militants, during clashes in northern Tikrit, March 11, 2015. Credit: Reuters/Stringer
(Reuters) – U.S.-led coalition warplanes launched their first airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Tikrit on Wednesday, officials said, coming off the sidelines to aid Iraqi forces fighting alongside Iran-backed Shi’ite militia on the ground.
The decision to give air support to the Tikrit campaign pulls the United States into a messy battle that puts the U.S.-led coalition, however reluctantly, on the same side of a fight as Iranian-backed militia in a bid to support Iraqi forces and opens a new chapter in the war.
It also appeared to represent at least a tacit acknowledgement by Baghdad that such airpower was necessary to wrest control of the hometown of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein from Islamic State fighters, after its attempts to go it alone stalled.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Iraqi forces would prevail with the support of “friendly” countries and the international coalition, including arms, training and aerial support.
“We have opened the last page of the operations,” Abadi said on state television…
It is sure taking a long time to take Tikrit from Islamic State. Will this be like Kobane and drag on for months and destroy the whole town?