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Shiite fighters leave Tikrit

Almost all Shiite militiamen have withdrawn from Tikrit after being accused of looting the Iraqi city. The paramilitary troops had helped Iraqi forces to retake the city from the "IS" fighters in a month-long battle.

Iraq's Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, a moderate Shiite Islamist, decided to pull paramilitaries out of Tikrit after a meeting with local officials on Saturday, who complained of looting by Shiite armed factions.

"Most of the (paramilitaries) were removed from the city," Ahmed al-Kraim, the head of the council of Tikrit and its province Salahuddin, said on Saturday.

Hundreds of homes and shops have been robbed or burned since the home city of late Iraq dictator Saddam Hussein was taken by Iraqi forces on Wednesday. The city had been occupied by "Islamic State" ten months previously, and the terror group was only pushed out of the city after a month-long joint effort by Iraqi forces and paramilitary allies, supported by US airstrikes on the city.

On Friday, after reports of paramilitaries ransacking and vandalizing the city, Prime Minister Abadi ordered security forces to arrest anyone breaking the law, and then scheduled his meeting with the governor and key officials.

"It sent a clear message to everyone. Although it is very challenging, the prime minister is on the top of situation," said Abadi's spokesman Rafid Jaboori.

Situation 'calm'

"The situation now is calm," a police major in Tikrit said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Karim al-Noori, a spokesman for the Shiite paramilitary fighters, confirmed that 80 percent of the Shiite volunteers had left Tikrit.

Head of Tikrit's council Al-Kraim called the Saturday talks with Abadi "very positive."

"The looting and vandalism against residents' properties stopped today and things are getting better," al-Kraim said.

dj/bk (Reuters, dpa)

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