A Shiite paramilitary fighter walks past a wall painted with the black flag commonly used by ISIS militants at former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's palaces in Tikrit March 31, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer
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Iraq declared a "magnificent victory" Wednesday over ISIS in Tikrit, a key step in driving the militants out of their biggest strongholds.Extremists from ISIS seized Tikrit last summer during its advance across northern and western Iraq. The battle for Tikrit is seen as a key step toward eventually driving the militants out of Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city and the provincial capital of Nineveh.Iraqi forces, including soldiers, police officers, Shiite militias and Sunni tribes, launched a large-scale operation to recapture Tikrit on March 2 . Recapturing Tikrit would be the biggest win so far for Baghdad's Shiite-led government. The city is about 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of Baghdad and lies on the road connecting the capital to Mosul. A satellite image of Tikrit, released in February by the United Nations, showed at least 536 buildings in the city have been affected by the fighting.Kubis also said Wednesday that the offensive in Tikrit is "a victory for all the Iraqi people," and that the U.N. was ready to assist the provincial and national authorities.
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