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Iraqi forces defeat remaining ISIS pockets in Salaheddine

By Alaa Hussein in Baghdad

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Joint Iraqi forces conducted a week-long military operation, launched on April 26th, to destroy all remaining 'Islamic State of Iraq and Syria' pockets in Mutaybija and surrounding areas in Salaheddine province. [Photo courtesy of the Iraqi Ministry of Defence]

In a large-scale military operation backed by tribal mobilisation forces, the Iraqi army has destroyed the last pockets held by the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) in Salaheddine province, officials told Diyaruna.

The week-long military operation, launched on April 26th, targeted all remaining ISIS pockets in Mutaybija, east of the provincial capital Tikrit, and nearby areas.

These areas were used by ISIS remnants as a launchpad for their attacks on the province.

Salaheddine provincial council security committee member Khaled al-Khazraji told Diyaruna that the military operation was launched from three key areas with support from the Salaheddine, Samarra and Tigris operations commands forces, the Salaheddine and Diyala police and with backing from the Iraqi Air Force.

The operation resulted in the death of more than 70 ISIS elements, the seizure of ammunition and light and medium weapons, and the controlled detonation of several car bombs, he said.

"What was even more important, was that the joint forces managed to completely secure Mutaybija, cleanse it from terrorist cells, obstruct their supply routes and penetrate into the heart of Salaheddine province," he added.

"The entire province is now secure and cleared of terrorist pockets with the exception of the left bank of al-Sharqat in northern Salaheddine," one of the gateways to the city of Mosul, al-Khazraji said.

Once west Mosul is fully liberated, he said, Iraqi forces will set their sights on recapturing al-Sharqat from ISIS.

Intelligence is half the battle

The operation resulted in the seizure of important documents and information, said Samarra operations commander Maj. Gen. Imad al-Zuhairi.

These will provide security forces with insight on the work of terror groups and allow them to uncover sleeper cells each in their area of responsibility, he told Diyaruna.

Salaheddine's intelligence and counter-terrorism directorate has dealt heavy blows to ISIS, said security adviser Fadel Abu Ragheef.

In March, security forces foiled a massive terrorist plot that was to target a holy Shia shrine in Samarra using 15 ISIS elements driving four car bombs, he said.

"The caution exercised by the security forces armed with strong intelligence allowed them to kill all the terrorists and blow up their cars before they reached their targets in Samarra," he told Diyaruna.

"Intelligence authorities in the province are also providing valuable information to the security forces in order to target and strike ISIS's safe houses where the group gathers its fighters and suicide bombers," he said.

Salaheddine is unique from a security standpoint, Abu Ragheef said, noting that it is surrounded by five provinces -- Kirkuk, Ninawa, Anbar, Baghdad and Diyala -- that have witnessed terrorist presence, while some are still restive with pockets of terrorists.

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