The Iraqi government claimed victory over Islamic State insurgents in Tikrit on Wednesday after a month-long battle for the city supported by Shi’ite militiamen and U.S.-led air strikes, saying that only small pockets of resistance remained.
State television showed Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, accompanied by leaders of the army and police, the provincial governor and Shi’ite paramilitary leaders, parading through Tikrit and raising an Iraqi flag.
The militants captured the city, about 140 km (90 miles) north of Baghdad, last June as they swept through most of Iraq’s Sunni Muslim territories, swatting aside a demoralized and disorganized army that has now required an uneasy combination of Iranian and American support to get back on its feet.
With explosions and gunfire still audible, and columns of smoke dotting the horizon, 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.
“Most of Tikrit today is liberated, only small parts remain (outside our control). We will give you the good news in the next few hours after eliminating the pockets that are still in the city,” he said.
Speaking in an abandoned cityscape scarred by gunfire, Ghabban said his federal police had fought for every house and road and were now working to de-mine Tikrit, a city with a pre-war population of a quarter of a million, which he said was full of booby traps planted by Islamic State.