Iraqi Shiite militia leader Hadi al-Ameri. AP file Photo.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region - The head of Iraq's powerful Shiite militias, known collectively as the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), has said the forces will capitalize on a hard-won victory in Tikrit and advance westward to next liberate Anbar province from the Islamic State.
“We will celebrate the liberation of Salahaddin province soon as we did in Diyala Governorate. We will then move into Anbar province and Nineveh [Mosul] will be our final destination,” Hadi al-Ameri, head of the Shiite Badr Organization, told a press conference on Friday in the center of Tikrit.
Ameri added that the majority of Salahaddin province is now under the control of Iraqi forces, with small pockets of resistance yet to be retaken.
Iraqi forces reconquered Diyala province from ISIS militants in January. After nearly a month of fighting, culminating in a week of airstrikes from the US-led coalition, the mixed PMU and Iraqi Army force entered Tikrit in force on April 1.
The battle exposed divisions within the Iraqi forces and also between Ameri's PMU and the US military.
“If Iraqi government wants to be thankful to the United States for the Tikrit operation, let them be. But we will not give credit to the US-led coalition and we don’t need them here,” said Ameri, widely known as maintaining strong ties to Iran.
The Iraqi Army, Kurdish Peshmerga, Shiite militiamen and volunteers from Sunni tribesmen are all engaged in the fight against ISIS in different parts of Iraq.
A US-led coalition is carrying out airstrikes against the jihadists in both Iraq and neighboring Syria.