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Iraq Claims Capture Of Tikrit

Iraqi soldiers and Shi'ite volunteers hold a flag belonging to the Islamic State extremist group after they regained control of Tikrit, April 1, 2015.
Iraqi soldiers and Shi'ite volunteers hold a flag belonging to the Islamic State extremist group after they regained control of Tikrit, April 1, 2015.

The Iraqi government has claimed victory over Islamic State (IS) militants in Tikrit after a month-long battle for the city.

State television showed Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi -- accompanied by local military and political leaders -- parading through Tikrit and raising an Iraqi flag on April 1.

Earlier, Defense Minister Khalid al-Obeidi announced the victory, saying security forces have "accomplished their mission."

IS militants captured Tikrit -- about 140 kilometers north of Baghdad -- in June 2014 during a lightning advance through most of Iraq's Sunni Muslim territories.

Commentators say capturing Tikrit could prove key to eventually driving IS militants out of Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city and the capital of Nineveh Province.

Interior Minister Mohammed al-Ghabban told reporters that security forces were fighting to clear the city's last Islamic State holdout, the northern neighborhood of Qadissiyah.

Ghabban said his federal police had fought for every house and road and were now working to de-mine Tikrit.

Iraqi forces, including soldiers, police officers, Shi'ite militias and Sunni tribes, launched a large-scale operation to recapture Tikrit on March 2.

Last week, the United States launched air strikes on the embattled city at the request of the Iraqi government.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the victory was compelling evidence that the U.S. strategy against IS was working.

He said the Tikrit operation had been stalled for weeks but that coalition air strikes and advancing local forces apparently caused IS militants to withdraw.

Earlier on April 1, Iraqi security forces fired on snipers and searched homes for remaining militants in Tikrit.

A satellite image of Tikrit -- released in February by the United Nations -- showed at least 536 buildings in the city have been affected by the fighting.

Parliament speaker Salim al-Jabouri urged the government to find the means to resettle residents from damaged Tikrit buildings.

He said this "requires effort and support by the central government in order to financially support the people in rebuilding their houses."

With reporting by AP and Reuters
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