Iraq paramilitaries freeze Tikrit ops over US strikes

Iraqi forces near Tikrit. Source.

Awja (Iraq) (AFP) – Key groups in Iraq’s paramilitary Popular Mobilisation forces, which have played a leading role in the ongoing assault on Tikrit, are freezing their participation in offensive operations, commanders said Friday.

While the move appeals to Washington, which wants distance from militias accused of human rights abuses, it will also blunt the offensive capabilities of pro-government ground forces in the battle to retake Tikrit from the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group.

The United States launched its first air strikes in support of the Tikrit operation on Wednesday, sparking the freeze by militia units in the Popular Mobilisation forces, or Hashad al-Shaabi in Arabic, which had repeatedly voiced opposition to American intervention.

Several commanders from the Badr organisation, a militia whose leader Hadi al-Ameri is a senior figure in the Hashed al-Shaabi, said fighters were pulling back but not out of the operation.

“We consider this a break until the coalition issue is resolved,” one commander, who gave his name as Baqir, told AFP in Awja, just south of Tikrit…