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Iraqi offensive on hold to allow Tikrit civilians to leave

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq’s Interior Minister says military operations to recapture the Islamic State-held city of Tikrit have temporarily paused to allow civilians left in Saddam Hussein’s hometown to leave.

Mohammed Salem al-Ghabban says the offensive, which began early this month, has achieved 90 percent of its objectives and has squeezed the militants into a small part of the city center.

He says Islamic State extremists have booby-trapped buildings in central Tikrit and that Iraqi forces, backed by Shiite militias and Iranian advisers, slowed their push to reduce their own causalities, protect the infrastructure and allow residents to leave.

The minister spoke on Monday from the nearby city of Samarra.

He did not give a timeframe for the resumption of operations, saying that is being “left to the field commanders.”

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