Video: Tikrit in ruins after liberation from Islamic State group
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After a bitter, month-long battle, Iraqi forces backed by Shiite militiamen have driven the Islamic State (IS) group from Tikrit. But the city’s liberation has come at a heavy price, FRANCE 24's Anne-Sophie Le Mauff and Delano D'Souza report.
Much of Saddam Hussein’s hometown, once a bustling city north of Baghdad, now lies in ruins.
IS extremists captured Tikrit in a blitz offensive last June that also saw them seize large chunks of northern and western Iraq, along with a huge swath of land in neighbouring Syria.
After a nearly 10-month IS occupation, it took Iraqi forces and their allies, including Iranian-backed Shiite militias, a month of ferocious street battles to win the city back.
Today, the houses that still stand are pocked with bullet holes and Tikrit’s streets are lined with shell craters.
The provincial headquarters in the downtown – now adorned with Shiite militia flags in place of the IS group’s black banner – is burned from fire and damaged from heavy fighting.
Iraqi Capitain Abdel Hamza Ali told FRANCE 24 the city was littered with the bodies of dead IS fighters who hailed from a large number of Muslim countries.
“We found Arabs here, Egyptians, Sudanese and Chechens,” he said. “If you walk in the town you will see Chechen bodies.”
More than half of the city has been destroyed, and most of Tikrit’s 200,000 Sunni residents have yet to return. When they do it will be to an uncertain future.
The city is still littered with booby traps and services such as power and water are yet to be restored.
The Baghdad government says police and local Sunni tribes will eventually be empowered to maintain law and order in Tikrit, and the (mostly Shiite) militias are expected to leave.
But reports of violence and looting threaten to tarnish the government's victory and heighten the country's bitter sectarian divide.
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