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Wearing military fatigues and a white turban, the Shiite religious figure gave an eve-of-battle address to Iran-backed fighters preparing to attack ISIS militants in Tikrit, praising them for defending their faith and urging them to fight honorably.Seated in front of him in rows, crossed-legged in the grass, were dozens of armed men from Iraq's largest Shiite militia, the Badr Organization, the main element of a force now advancing on Tikrit's eastern flank against the ISIS militants who now dominate most of northern Iraq.At least 20,000 fighters are said to be involved in the Iraqi advance, mostly from Shiite militias known as the Popular Mobilization units.The Badr Organization militiamen and the regular army's troops drive identical tanks, with only an army logo differentiating regular military from militia.Then, if there are ISIS fighters on the road ahead, artillery opens up to drive them back, targeting in particular suspected suicide car bombers.Three blackened, bombed-out vehicles belonging to the army and militia forces could be seen on the road.The next day, as ISIS fighters evaporated, their progress was closer to 50 km.As they advanced, they left police units and militia fighters to hold territory behind the frontline.
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