Source: Sendvid/Islamic State
Islamic State (IS) militants have hung the bodies of men believed to be Iraqi soldiers at the entrance to the town of Hawija in northern Iraq. In a video posted to YouTube, the corpses are shown strung from Hawija's gates as vehicles passed below.Witnesses quoted by local Iraqi reports said the bodies, strung upside down, were those of Iraqi government soldiers killed while battling IS forces in Tikrit, located about 74 miles away.
The gruesome display comes as Iraqi troops and allied Shiite militias mount a massive push to retake Tikrit from IS fighters. Approximately 30,000 troops, backed by bombers and helicopters, are trying to push into the Islamic State-held city approximately 100 miles from Baghdad. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the assault on Tikrit last Sunday during a press conference.Related: Iraqi Forces make Massive Push to Retake TikritRelated: Islamic State Releases Small Group of Assyrian Christian Hostages Days After Mass Kidnapping
Tikrit was first taken by the Islamic State in June 2014 as the group swept across much of northern Iraq.The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S. Army General Martin Dempsey, told reporters Saturday that he believes the attempt to retake Tikrit will be successful."Yeah, I do," he told the Associated Press. "The numbers are overwhelming."Dempsey said that the Iraqi fighters involved in the offensive, including Shiite militamen and Iraqi soldiers using humvees and trucks, could end up being stuck in traffic jams as they converge on the city."I wouldn't describe it as a sophisticated military maneuver," he told the AP.Earlier this week, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry described the operation as "an Iraqi-designed and an Iraqi-controlled advance," according to the AP.On Tuesday the New York Times reported on the rift between the Iraqi coalition sent to retake the city and U.S. military leaders. U.S. officials are reportedly uneasy with the Iranian-allied Shiite militias playing such major role in the retaking of Tikrit, according to the newspaper.
In a message on Facebook, Prime Minister Abadi noted that soldiers would aim to protect civilians in the crosshairs of the conflict, appearing to address fears that Sunnis in Tikrit could be targeted or executed by Shia militias.Last year, at least 1,000 mostly Shia recruits were executed by Islamic State members after being taken from the Camp Speicher military base near Tikrit. As a result, Shia militias have vowed revenge and periodically blamed local Sunni tribes for taking part.On Friday, Iraqi government forces were able to take back the small town of Al-Baghdadi, according to the AFP."Iraqi security forces and tribal fighters from the Anbar region have successfully cleared al-Baghdadi of ISIL (IS), retaking both the police station and three Euphrates River bridges," read a portion of the statement from the US-led coalition conducting airstrikes against militant targets, according to AFP.VICE News' John Beck contributed to this report. Follow Gillian Mohney on Twitter: @gillianmohney