battle for Tikrit Isis
Smoke billows in the background as a member of the Iraqi paramilitary Popular Mobilisation unit flashes the V for victory sign after regaining control of the village of Albu AjilAhmad al-Rubaye/AFP

The Iraqi army and militia groups have taken the city of Tikrit from the Islamic State (Isis) after days of fighting, a senior Iraqi Defence Ministry official has told IBTimes UK.

Iraqi government forces and allied Shia militias began the offensive over a week ago with a 20,000-man strong army, in an attempt to take back the strategic Isis stronghold and birthplace of former Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussain.

Speaking exclusively to the IBTimes UK, Captain A'laa Al-Idani at the Iraqi Ministry of Defence in Baghdad said: "The battle has ended in Tikrit, and we have managed to gain complete control of the town with the aid of militias and other groups."

The Iraqi advance began ten days ago, with tens of thousands of soldiers in the Iraqi national army and Iranian-backed Shia militia groups. The forces are heading for the ISIS-stronghold of Mosul, which was seized by the Islamists last summer.

As the army fought street by street to take Tikrit – which lies on the Baghdad-Mosul highway - soldiers and militia fighters faced booby traps and roadside bombs.

With the city's apparent liberation, government sources say that their toughest and most important battle to date has been won.

Footage appearing on Iraqi state television and social media showed troops flying Iraqi military and Shia militia flags in elation following their success.

Al-Idani declined to release the number of casualties for security reasons, but said: "Our forces have shown the world our strength and have proved its loyalty to the continued fight against Isis."

He added that troops were making an effort in the city to re-house civilians into tents and keep them safe from further attacks.

Despite the success, tensions are increasing over what this will mean for the future of Iraq, as Shia militia with the backing of Iran led the battle into mostly Sunni Tikrit. A peaceful consolidation of power in Tikrit will likely serve as an example to residents in the Sunni north of Iraq still in control of IS that they have nothing to fear from government forces.

Al-Adani said that despite the victory in Tikrit, the battle against IS had just begun.

"The war has not ended, the army now heads towards Kirkuk and south Anbar where several areas have been freed and oil fields re-captured," he said.

"The battles wage on, but by the will of God we will win and take back the whole of Iraq."