Aided by Shia militias, Iraqi forces check Sunni militants` advance

As Sunni militants belonging to ISIS continue their onslaught in Iraq north of Baghdad, the government forces assisted with Shia Muslims and Kurdish militias have managed to check their advance and begun the counter-offensive.

By Supriya Jha | Last Updated: Jun 15, 2014, 15:46 PM IST

Zee Media Bureau/Supriya Jha

Baghdad: As Sunni militants belonging to ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Levant) continue their onslaught in Iraq north of Baghdad, the government forces assisted with Shia Muslims and Kurdish militias have managed to check their advance and begun the counter-offensive, reports said Sunday.

According to the BBC, Iraqi forces are “holding back an advance by Sunni militants north of Baghdad” and “are building up in the city of Samarra” in an apparent bid to counter-attack the ISIS militants to wrest back the control of Saddam Hussein`s hometown, Tikrit.

The report added that the government forces had retaken control of many towns from Sunni militants but the ISIS fighters continued to wield control over the two main towns of Mosul and Tikrit which they took over last week.

The gains reportedly made by Iraqi forces come after the country`s senior Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, urged fellow Shia Muslims to take up arms against the Sunni fighters.

According to the BBC, many in Baghdad and neighboring cities heeded the cleric`s call and took to streets with their arms.

While ruling out any US troops on ground, President Barack Obama has kept all options open and has sent aircraft carrier USS George HW Bush to the Gulf along with the guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea and the guided-missile destroyer USS Truxtun.

Even Iran has suggested that it might work in collaboration with the US to drive out the ISIS militants, despite a strained relationship between the two nations.

Iran`s Hassan Rouhani has offered to help Iraq directly but avoided sending troops.

Meanwhile, former UK PM Tony Blair has sought to rubbish claims that Anglo-US invasion of Iraq has led to the recent crisis.

Writing on his website, Mr Blair attributed the latest insurgency crisis in Iraq to the inaction in Syria.

Calling the latest violence in Iraq as “malign and predictable outcome of inaction in Syria, Blair said,"We have to liberate ourselves from the notion that `we` have caused this. We haven`t."

He added that Mosul takeover was plotted across Syrian border.

"Where the extremists are fighting, they have to be countered hard, with force," Mr Blair said.