US-led coalition says IS still holds parts of Iraq's Tikrit

Smoke billows during a military operation by Iraqi forces and allied paramilitaries to retake the city of Tikrit from Islamic State group jihadists, as seen from the southern outskirts of Tikrit, on March 30, 2015 (AFP Photo/Ahmad Al-Rubaye)

Baghdad (AFP) - The Islamic State group still controls parts of the Iraqi city of Tikrit, which Baghdad announced had been retaken, the US-led coalition battling the jihadists said Tuesday.

"Parts of the city remain under (IS's) control and there is still work to be done," spokesperson Major Kim Michelsen told AFP by email.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had hailed the "liberation of Tikrit" earlier in the day, congratulating the forces that took part in the battle.

And Abadi's spokesman Rafid Jaboori told AFP "Iraqi forces reached the centre of Tikrit, raised the Iraqi flag and are now clearing the city."

Troops, police and Popular Mobilisation units -- paramilitary forces dominated by Iranian-backed Shiite militias -- began the battle for Tikrit on March 2.

They were able to recapture towns near Tikrit and then surrounded it, but faced difficulties pushing into the city and the operation stalled.

Over militia objections, the US-led coalition began air strikes on IS in the Tikrit area, prompting some of the groups to announce they were halting offensive operations.

Iran had been the main foreign backer of the operation for several weeks, and some militiamen accused Washington of attempting to hijack their victory.

In the end, the US carried out air strikes in spite of the presence of militias and the militias took part in recent fighting despite Washington's role.

IS spearheaded a major militant offensive that overran much of Iraq's Sunni Arab heartland last June, and large chunks of Nineveh and Anbar provinces are still under their control.