TIKRIT, Iraq, March 31 (Xinhua) -- Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Tuesday announced the security forces freed Salahudin's provincial capital city of Tikrit from the Islamic State (IS) militants after days of heavy clashes with the extremist militants.
"The Iraqi forces have entered downtown Tikrit before a short time and have raised the Iraqi flag on its provincial government building," Abadi said in a press conference in Baghdad.
"They are now clearing the rest of the city because Daash (IS militants) regrettably have booby-trapped the houses and buildings which they left in order to destroy all the installations," Abadi said.
Abadi, who is also commander in chief of Iraqi armed forces, said that Tikrit battles were "successful and will be repeated in other areas (seized by IS militants) due to the results on the ground, which minimized casualties among civilians and the security forces," the statement said.
A provincial security source told Xinhua that the troops backed by allied Shiite and Sunni militias and covered by U.S.-led coalition and Iraqi aircraft made a significant advance in southern, western and northern parts of the Tikrit, and later captured the downtown area after the IS militants fled the scene.
Later in the day, the troops pushed to the north on the western bank of the Tigris River inside the city and seized all presidential palaces of the former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, the source said.
"Tikrit is under control of the Iraqi forces and the members of Hashid al-Shaabi, Popular Mobilization, but sporadic clashes are under way as we are chasing the Daash (IS militants) in small pockets inside the city," the source said.
The security forces started to defuse dozens of bombs and booby-trapped buildings in the city, the source added.
On Monday, the troops reportedly retook control of the main hospital building, which is part of the government compound, and took new positions in the surrounding area as they are heading towards the central part of Tikrit.
Late on Wednesday, Abadi announced that the Iraqi forces started the final phase to liberate Tikrit and the rest of the northern parts of Salahudin province with the assistance of the international coalition air support.
The battles to free Tikrit from IS militants were stalled for about two weeks as the militants planted thousands of bombs and booby-trapped dozens of buildings and cars.
Since March 2, some 30,000 Iraqi troops and thousands of allied Shiite and Sunni militias have been involved in Iraq's biggest offensive to recapture the northern part of Salahudin province, including Tikrit and other key towns and villages, from IS militants.
Large parts of the province have been under IS control since June 2014, after bloody clashes broke out between Iraqi security forces and the group.