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Most of Tikrit, Iraq, freed from Islamic State

The assault on Tikrit is Iraq's largest government military operation thus far to contain IS.

By Ed Adamczyk
Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi at the UN in New York on September 24, 2014. File Photo by UPI/Alan Tannenbaum.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi at the UN in New York on September 24, 2014. File Photo by UPI/Alan Tannenbaum. | License Photo

TIKRIT, Iraq, March 31 (UPI) -- The city of Tikrit, Iraq, has been secured from Islamic State forces occupying the center of the city, Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi announced Tuesday.

The strategic city of 260,000, located 86 miles from the Iraqi capital of Baghdad and on the road between Baghdad and Mosul, has been the site of fighting since March. 2 between IS forces, a coalition of Iraqi troops,police, Shiite militia groups and Sunni tribal members. Although suburban Tikrit fell easily, several hundred IS members controlled the downtown part of the city until this week.

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The assault on Tikrit is Iraq's largest government military operation thus far to contain IS.

"Our security forces have reached the center of Tikrit and they have liberated the southern and western sides and they are moving towards the control of the whole city," Abadi said in a statement Tuesday which also credited U.S. airstrikes. Fighter planes have bombed suspected IS targets in the area since Wednesday of last week.

The Salaheddin province government building in Tikrit was recaptured, Gov. Raad al-Juburi said, noting Iraqi flags have replaced IS banners on government buildings in the city center.

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The military forces fighting alongside the regular Iraqi army played an instrumental role in the capture of the city but have come under scrutiny for alleged abuses. While IS atrocities have been well noted, a United Nations report found the opposing side "carried out extrajudicial killings, torture, abductions and forcibly displaced a large number of people."

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