The city “will be liberated within 72 hours,” Karim al-Nouri, a leading figure of the Shia party Badr Organisation and the spokesman of the government-backed militia of al-Hashed al-Shaabi, said in the town of Awja, south of Tikrit.
The Iraqi troops and government-backed Shia and Sunni militias since Tuesday have carried out a major offensive to free Tikrit and gained some ground in the city, some 170 km north of Iraq’s capital Baghdad.
However, they have been moving slowly and cautiously amid heavy clashes with the militants, including a large number of IS snipers, while they also have to deal with hundreds of roadside bombs and booby-trapped houses.
Al-Nouri’s remarks came a day after a meeting between security leaders and Hadi al-Ameri, head of the Badr Organisation, about the operations to free the city, a security source told Xinhua news agency.
The meeting came out with a decision to bring more forces from the Badr Organisation, which is better equipped and well-trained on urban warfare.
The Badr Organisation was previously known as Badr Brigade which maintains its longtime ties with neighbouring Iran, where it was first formed during the eight-year Iraq-Iran war in the 1980s.
Ameri’s Brigade emerged as a powerful militia during the years after the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and turned to be a political organisation a few years later.
The Badr Brigade was the military wing of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, a Shia party headed by Shia cleric Ammar al-Hakim.
Some 30,000 Iraqi troops and thousands of allied Shia and Sunni militias have been involved in the week-long operation to recapture Tikrit and other key towns and villages in the northern part of Salahudin province from IS militants.
Large parts of the province have been under IS control since June 2014, after bloody clashes broke out between Iraqi security forces and the Sunni radical group.
The IS has taken control of the country’s northern city of Mosul and later seized swathes of territories in Nineveh and other predominantly Sunni provinces.