Iraqi military forces and Shiite militias have seized control of a number of areas in Tikrit after a tough battle against Daesh, but the agony of those who lost their loved ones and their homes is harder to capture.
Umayya Ghanim, a mother who escaped with her three daughters, said the pain is too much to bear.
“They killed my husband and my brother’s wife, (but) I managed to flee to protect my daughters,” she said. “Daesh has ruined us.”
The ground offensive on the Sunni-majority city had started on March 2, with the aim of getting closer to Mosul, Daesh’s stronghold.
The joint forces took control of Samarra district, the towns of Alam and Dora and Abu Gisayba village in Tikrit, the birthplace of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.
Diyar al-Sari, one of the militias, said he used to be a news reporter before Daesh stormed his town and wrecked everything in its path.
“The militant group destroyed state offices that provide water, power and other basic services,” Sari said. “If electricity and water come back again in Alam, my family will return.”
The town of Alam and its villages are reportedly controlled a Shiite militia group and the Sunni youngsters who joined them. The Shiite militias have set up checkpoints every 800 meters, putting up posters of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Mohamed Salah said he joined the fight after Daesh militants abducted around 200 people from his region.
“The militants executed most of them and posted their images on social media,” Salah said. “The trauma still continues.”
Clashes between Iraqi forces and Daesh have been ongoing since June 2014 when the armed group seized Mosul and other territories in Iraq.