Iraqi soldiers and Shi'ite militias push to box in Islamic State fighters in Tikrit in a major offensive against the insurgents. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
Thousands of Iraqi soldiers and Shi'ite militias sought to seal off Islamic State fighters in Tikrit and nearby towns on Tuesday (March 3), the second day of Iraq's biggest offensive to date against a stronghold of the radical Sunni Islamist fighters. Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani, who has helped coordinate Baghdad's counter-attacks against Islamic State since they seized much of northern Iraq in June, was overseeing part of the operation, witnesses told Reuters on Tuesday. Military officials said security forces backed by the Shi'ite militia known as Hashid Shaabi (popular mobilisation) units were advancing gradually, their progress slowed by roadside bombs and snipers. Video released by Hashid Shaabi showed the Shi'ite forces and Iraqi soldiers firing at Islamic State positions around Tikrit. They have yet to actually enter Tikrit, best known as the hometown of executed former president Saddam Hussein.