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Iraqi Forces Make Advances In Tikrit, Prime Minister Says

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

We turn now to Iraq. After a month of fighting in the city of Tikrit, the Iraqi government claims its forces are on the verge of pushing out the remaining militants of the self-styled Islamic State, or ISIS. Soldiers celebrated as they moved into the city center, but NPR's Alice Fordham reports some warned there will be more fighting before the city is cleared.

ALICE FORDHAM, BYLINE: Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi gave a triumphant speech.

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PRIME MINISTER HAIDER AL-ABADI: (Foreign language spoken).

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FORDHAM: "Our heroic forces entered the heart of Tikrit a little while ago," he says. The city has been under ISIS control since June last year. Ammar Ali, a media volunteer with paramilitary anti-ISIS forces, is on the outskirts. He says police and army moved slowly through areas with ISIS snipers and into the city center, and he says Tikrit matters.

AMMAR ALI: First of all, Tikrit was symbolic for the ISIS.

FORDHAM: Symbolic because Tikrit was the hometown of Saddam Hussein, whom many Iraqi ISIS supporters revere. But Ali also says there's still fighting in parts of the city. U.S. military officials say some parts of it are still in control of ISIS. An Iraqi intelligence commander said over the weekend that hundreds of ISIS fighters remained, despite airstrikes from the U.S.-led coalition and Iraq's air force. And many buildings and roads are believed to be rigged with improvised bombs. Alice Fordham, NPR News, Baghdad. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.