After a conflict that lasted more than a month, Iraq’s military forces have ousted the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants from the center of Tikrit city, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said.
On Tuesday, Abadi issued a statement saying that troops, now occupying the neighborhoods in the city’s southern and western borders, are advancing to gain control of the entire city.
Among those liberated were the governor’s headquarters and the main hospital, which had been seized by the ISIL.
The prime minister congratulated the forces and announced the victory on Twitter.
Rafid Jaboori, Abadi’s spokesman, said, “Iraqi forces reached the centre of Tikrit, raised the Iraqi flag and are now clearing the city.”
Street-by-street fighting continued throughout the afternoon, while varying estimates as to how much of the city was under Iraqi forces emerged.
According to NBC News, Army Lt. Gen. Talib Shaghati said that almost 75 percent of Tikrit was under the control of the Iraqis. However, Ammar Hikmat, deputy governor of Salahuddin province, stated that 40 percent of the city had been retaken.
Many Islamic militants are taking refuge in Salahuddin province’s capital city. Several neighborhoods have been occupied by insurgents, in addition to a palace complex in the northern part of the city.
On Tuesday, Shi’ite militia groups took to the battleground after a request for U.S. air strikes was made by Abadi. However, contesting the air strikes, armed factions said their paramilitary forces could regain control of Tikrit, which was taken by Islamic State militants last June.
Kata’ib Hezbollah and Asaib Ahl al-Haq, anti-American factions, declared their association with federal police and army forces in the fight to retake the city after Abadi agreed to put U.S. air strikes on hold.
Despite the stronghold of Shi-ite militia forces, U.S. officials have urged on an Iraqi government military command to carry out the offense.
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