Iraqi security forces and Shiite militiamen prepare to attack ISIS extremists in Tikrit, 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, March 13, 2015. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)
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More than 20,000 troops and Iranian-backed Shiite fighters entered Tikrit Wednesday, having retaken areas to the north and south in a campaign launched almost two weeks ago, Iraq's biggest offensive against the militants yet.Iraqi security expert Hisham al-Hashemi doubted the city could be retaken with ground forces only, saying airpower was required to clear the many buildings which the ISIS fighters had rigged with explosives.As the army and Shiite militias, who are known as Hashid Shaabi (Popular Mobilization), recaptured ISIS-held towns near Tikrit, a small number of residents who had fled the militants' advance began to return home. On the outskirts of Samarra, a sacred Shiite city being used as a rear base for the Tikrit offensive further north, militants attacked an Iraqi army unit Friday, two security officials said.
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