Iraqi Defence Minister Khaled al-Obeidi (L) speaks with General Anwar Hama Ameen, who heads the Iraqi Air Force, at an air base in Baghdad March 26, 2015. REUTERS/Khalid al-Mousily
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Iraqi special forces troops advanced on central Tikrit Thursday, backed by U.S.-led coalition planes in the largest offensive yet against ISIS militants holding out in Saddam Hussein's home city.Austin said he witnessed brutality by Shiite militias during his extensive experience leading U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq.Austin, who heads U.S. Central Command, said that there now are about 4,000 Iraqi forces, commandos and police battling for the city, and with American help, he believes the campaign to retake Tikrit will move forward. Some of the Shiite militias have targeted Americans in past Iraqi conflicts, but the fight against ISIS has put them on the same side.Iraqi forces retook the area surrounding Tikrit in the first week of the campaign, and entered some districts of the city itself, which had been overrun in June by ISIS.The coalition joined the fray in Tikrit at the request of Iraqi military commanders, but Shiite militia commanders publicly rejected any U.S. role in the campaign to retake the jihadi bastion.
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