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Iraqi PM: Government forces liberate Tikrit


Iraqi government officials say their forces have regained control of most of the northern city of Tikrit from Islamic State militants.

They announced on Tuesday that troops entering central Tikrit had retaken the governor's office, a hospital and other major buildings. The rebels had occupied the city since last June.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a televised address on Tuesday that Iraqi forces had liberated the city on their own. He said they had dealt a severe blow to the militant group.

Iraqi interior ministry officials said the militants had fled to northern Tikrit and that several hundred fighters are holed up in 2 areas about 10 kilometers from the center of the city.

Ministry officials said government forces are continuing the fight to sweep the militants out of the city.

Government troops backed by Iran and Shia militiamen launched their operation against the militants in early March. Last week US-led coalition forces began air strikes in support of the offensive.

Iraqi forces next plan to retake Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city and an Islamic State stronghold.

Observers say that campaign by the Shia-led government is not likely to go smoothly. Most of Mosul's 2 million residents, like members of the Islamic State group, are Sunnis. Some of the city's Sunni residents reportedly support the extremist group.


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