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Iraqi Explosives Experts Dismantle Bombs in Liberated Tikrit

Smoke is seen coming from behind a building in Tikrit, April 1, 2015.

Iraqi explosives experts dismantled roadside bombs and other explosive devices Thursday in Tikrit, a day after Iraq declared victory over Islamic State militants in the strategic city.

One explosives expert said the engineering unit secured the road linking the city center to Tikrit University.

On Wednesday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called the liberation of Tikrit a "historic milestone."

The Pentagon said on Wednesday the Iraqis control the city center and the main government headquarters but were still meeting pockets of resistance from hundreds of militants. Witnesses said snipers were hiding on roofs, and Iraqi military officials said Islamic State left booby traps in buildings across the city.

Islamic State seized Tikrit last June. Iraqi forces tried several times to retake the city, but failed until receiving help last month from U.S. coalition airstrikes and Iranian-backed Sunni tribal fighters.

Iraqi special forces backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes began advancing on central Tikrit last week after days of a stalled offensive.

The battle for Tikrit is seen as a key step toward driving militants out of the city of Mosul, which is about 225 kilometers north of Tikrit. Islamic State fighters captured both cities last year during their advance across northern and western Iraq.

Tikrit is the birthplace of the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.