BREAKING: Iraq, Iran Forces, Civilian Volunteers Liberate Center of Tikrit

Iraqi armed forced, backed by volunteer and tribal fighters, have liberated central parts of the Iraqi city of Tikrit with major government buildings now retaken from ISIL Takfiri militants.

A statement by Iraq’s Defense Ministry on Wednesday said major government buildings close to the city’s center have been retaken from ISIL terrorists.

Security officials said most of the ISIL militants in the city have begun retreating.

The advances on Wednesday came after nearly a week of heavy fighting for the liberation of the city, around 160 kilometers north of the capital Baghdad. Tikrit was one of the two major strongholds of ISIL in Iraq, the other being Mosul.

Iraqi forces managed to retake Tikrit’s military hospital located in al-Qadisiya neighborhood earlier in the day. A mop-up operation was launched to hunt down ISIL militants scattered across the city.

The operation includes a combined force of more than 30,000 fighters both from the Iraqi armed forces and volunteers, known as Popular Mobilization forces. It is the largest operation launched by the government to date and many see it as a prelude to recapturing the northern city of Mosul.

The operation is being assisted by Iranian military advisers who have made a huge contribution to similar offensives against the Takfiri militants. The US-led international coalition against ISIL has no role to play in the operation to retake Tikrit, although Iraqi officials have announced they would use the support of coalition airstrikes in the battle for Mosul.