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Interior minister says Iraqi forces will recapture Tikrit from Islamic State within 'hours'

  • Iraqi security forces and allied Shiite militiamen celebrate as they hold a flag of the Islamic State group they captured in Tikrit, 80 miles (130 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, March 31, 2015. Iraqi forces battled Islamic State militants holed up in downtown Tikrit, going house to house Tuesday in search of snipers and booby traps, and the prime minister announced security forces had reached the city’s center. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

    Iraqi security forces and allied Shiite militiamen celebrate as they hold a flag of the Islamic State group they captured in Tikrit, 80 miles (130 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, March 31, 2015. Iraqi forces battled Islamic State militants holed up in downtown Tikrit, going house to house Tuesday in search of snipers and booby traps, and the prime minister announced security forces had reached the city’s center. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)  (The Associated Press)

  • Iraqi security forces launch rockets against Islamic State extremist positions in Tikrit, 80 miles (130 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, March 31, 2015. Iraqi forces battled Islamic State militants holed up in downtown Tikrit, going house to house Tuesday in search of snipers and booby traps, and the prime minister announced security forces had reached the city’s center. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

    Iraqi security forces launch rockets against Islamic State extremist positions in Tikrit, 80 miles (130 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, March 31, 2015. Iraqi forces battled Islamic State militants holed up in downtown Tikrit, going house to house Tuesday in search of snipers and booby traps, and the prime minister announced security forces had reached the city’s center. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)  (The Associated Press)

  • Iraqi security forces prepare to attack Islamic State extremists in Tikrit, 80 miles (130 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, March 31, 2015. Iraqi forces battled Islamic State militants holed up in downtown Tikrit, going house to house Tuesday in search of snipers and booby traps, and the prime minister announced security forces had reached the city’s center. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)

    Iraqi security forces prepare to attack Islamic State extremists in Tikrit, 80 miles (130 kilometers) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, March 31, 2015. Iraqi forces battled Islamic State militants holed up in downtown Tikrit, going house to house Tuesday in search of snipers and booby traps, and the prime minister announced security forces had reached the city’s center. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)  (The Associated Press)

Iraq's interior minister says security forces are battling the last remaining pockets of Islamic State militants in Tikrit and that he expects them to gain full control of the city "within the coming hours."

The minister, Mohammed Salem al-Ghabban, says the objective now is to free Tikrit and restore normalcy as quickly as possible. He says the government will help displaced residents return and that a civil defense unit will be combing the city for roadside bombs and car bombs.

Al-Ghabban spoke from the front-lines in Tikrit on Wednesday, a day after troops reached city center.

Iraqi forces launched the operation to recapture Saddam Hussein's hometown on March 2. The U.S. launched airstrikes on the embattled city last week at the request of the Iraqi government.