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Iraq forces hunt militants after Tikrit breakthrough
April 2, 2015, 8:45 am
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Iraqi security forces celebrate at a street in Tikrit a day after the prime minister declared victory in the weeks-long battle to retake the city from the Islamic State (IS) group.

Iraqi forces battled the last militants in Tikrit Wednesday to seal a victory the government described as a milestone in efforts to rid the country of the Islamic State group.

Iraqi fighters picked their way through the rubble-strewn streets of the city, wary of any last-ditch attack from diehard IS fighters and of the thousands of bombs they left behind.

A major military push saw Iraqi police and allied forces retake the city center on Tuesday but pockets of IS militants remained.

A top leader in the Badr organization, one of the most prominent Shiite militias in Iraq, admitted that Tikrit had not been completely purged of IS fighters.

“Snipers are still there and many buildings are booby-trapped,” Karim Al-Nuri told AFP in the northern Tikrit neighborhood of Qadisiya.

A commander for the Ketaeb Imam Ali militia said his men were involved in a firefight in the north of the city as late as 11:00 a.m. (0800 GMT).

They “tried to advance on the university,” Rasul Al-Abadi told AFP, adding that there were “no more than 30” IS fighters left in the city’s vast northern district of Qadisiya.

“The Iraqi security forces control 95 percent of the city, there are sporadic clashes,” said an army lieutenant colonel from Salaheddin province, of which Tikrit is the capital.

An official from the governor’s office said municipal teams were already at work in some reconquered neighborhoods, cleaning debris and restoring power. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi claimed the city was liberated but the US-led coalition that has been helping Baghdad from the air said there was “still work to be done.”

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