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Iraq's defense minister said Wednesday that security forces achieved a "magnificent victory" over ISIS in Tikrit, though senior U.S. defense officials signaled the militants still controlled parts of Saddam Hussein's hometown.
Khalid al-Obeidi said Wednesday that security forces have "accomplished their mission" in the month-long offensive to recapture Tikrit from ISIS, according to The Associated Press. Over the past week, the U.S. has launched more than 40 airstrikes over the past week in support of Iraqi forces' offensive on the city.
Retaking Tikrit is seen as critical before Iraqi forces attempt to drive ISIS out of Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq.
Senior defense officials told NBC News that Iraqi military forces controlled the center and much of the southern sections of Tikrit as of Wednesday morning — but that ISIS militants still held firm control over most of the city's north and were occupying smaller pockets elsewhere in the city.
"There are still significant areas of Tikrit under ISIS control and it will take several days of intense, door-to-door clearing operations," before the city is under Iraqi control, one senior defense official told NBC News.
- Iraq PM Says Troops Liberated Heart of Tikrit From ISIS
- Heavy Fighting Reported as Iraqi Forces Attack Tikrit
- Iraqi Troops in Final Push to Retake City From ISIS
— Jim Miklaszewski
The Associated Press contributed to this report.