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Iraqi security forces and Shia fighters hold a the emblem of the Islamic State group as they gather outside the provincial council building in Tikrit on April 1, 2015.

AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Iraq's defence minister says security forces have achieved a "magnificent victory" over Islamic State in Tikrit.

Khalid al-Obeidi said Wednesday that security forces have "accomplished their mission" in the month-long offensive to rid Saddam Hussein's hometown of the militant group.

The U.S. launched air strikes last week in support of Iraqi ground forces. The battle for Tikrit, 130 kilometres north of Baghdad, is seen as a key step toward eventually driving the militants out of Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city.

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The battle for Tikrit, 130 kilometres north of Baghdad, is seen as a key step toward eventually driving the militants out of Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city that is farther north. Extremists from the Islamic State group seized both cities last summer during their lightning advance across northern and western Iraq.

On Wednesday, Iraqi security forces fired on snipers positioned in high buildings and searched homes for remaining militants. Soldiers fanned out in circles from the charred skeletal remains of the Salahuddin provincial government complex, captured the day before.

Militant mortar fire, which had been intense over previous days, fell silent Wednesday, with commanders saying only a few militant snipers remain in the city. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing operations.

A satellite image of Tikrit, released in February by the United Nations, observed that at least 536 buildings in the city have been affected by the fighting. Of those, at least 137 were completely destroyed and 241 were severely damaged. The current offensive also exacerbated previous damage, particularly in the south where clashes have been the most intense in recent days.

Iraq's parliament speaker, Salim al-Jabouri, called on the government to find the means to resettle residents from damaged Tikrit buildings. He said this "requires effort and support by the central government in order to financially support the people in rebuilding their houses."

Meanwhile, the UN mission to Iraq said Wednesday that violence claimed the lives of at least 997 people in March, a slight drop from the February death toll.

UNAMI said in a statement that among them were 729 civilians while the rest were security forces. It said at least 2,172 people were wounded, including 1,785 civilians.

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The new UN envoy to Iraq, Jan Kubis, said he is shocked to see that Iraqis continue to "bear the brunt" of the ongoing violence in the country.

Kubis also said Wednesday that the offensive in Tikrit is "a victory for all the Iraqi people," and that the UN was ready to assist the provincial and national authorities in responding to the needs of the thousands of displaced."

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