Iraqi security forces in Ninawa are making progress in hunting down "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) pockets and destroying their hideouts in an effort to prevent the group's resurgence in the province, officials tell Diyaruna.
These efforts are possible thanks to the high level of co-ordination between security and intelligence authorities and the local population, they said.
"We have achieved a historic victory by liberating the city of Mosul, and Ninawa province as a whole," Ninawa police chief Brig. Watheq al-Hamadani told Diyaruna.
The biggest challenge now is how to preserve this victory and sustain security and stability, he said.
Police forces are working "at a high level of collaboration with the army, intelligence and the rest of the security agencies", he said.
"All members of the security forces are in high spirits today and seek to protect their gains that have been achieved with significant sacrifices," he added.
The local population is demonstrating an unprecedented level of co-operation with security forces to preserve security in their areas, al-Hamadani said.
"Our joint efforts are achieving progress on the ground," he said, noting that markets and public squares are crowded once again till a late hour at night.
Uncovering weapon caches
ISIS remnants have gone into hiding here and there, but have no actual influence, al-Hamadani said. "They are afraid for their lives as a result of the operations to hunt them down."
"We have detained many of them and they are sitting in prison today," he added.
Ninawa is "safe and secure" with Iraqi forces deployed throughout the province and more than 50 police directorates and stations helping maintain security, he said.
The army’s 15th division seized an ISIS weapons cache in al-Iyadhiyah area of Tal Afar to the north, according to a November 22nd statement by the Directorate of Military Intelligence.
The cache contained "20 explosive belts, eight bags of the C-4 explosive, 10 drone missiles and 12 hand grenades", in addition to equipment for manufacturing explosive devices, the statement said.
Prior to that in al-Saray neighbourhood of Tal Afar, a larger weapons cache was found containing "60 improvised explosive devices (IEDs), 380 hand grenades, 200 kilogrammes of explosives, 176 mortars and 1,000 detonators", said a November 11th statement by the intelligence directorate.
Ninawa Operations Command spokesman Brig. Gen. Firas Bashar Sabri stressed that these operations are part of a high quality pre-emptive effort.
"We regularly come across weapons and ammunition caches," he told Diyaruna, adding, "We seek to destroy any source of threat posed by the terrorists and to strip them of their capabilities."
Security forces are hunting down ISIS remnants in every inch of the province so that they have no safe haven to resort to, he said.
"There is exceptional intelligence activity to capture terrorists that are blending in with the civilian population," he added.
Securing the desert
On November 25th, the Iraqi army launched a military operation to capture ISIS pockets in the southern and western parts of Ninawa, particularly in al-Hadar.
The operation is part of the ongoing military campaign to secure the desert in the north-western part of Anbar province.
"ISIS came from the desert and remote areas [of Iraq] and we do not want them to go back and use those areas as safe havens," said Ninawa provincial council security committee member Hassan Shabib al-Sabaawi.
"We receive intelligence on terror elements hiding in caves all the way from al-Hawijah (in western Kirkuk province) to Qaraj (south-east of Mosul)," he told Diyaruna.
Al-Sabaawi stressed the need for "constant and large scale tracking operations with the participation of all units" to eradicate terrorism in those areas and in al-Hadar desert, which stretches along Iraq’s western border.
"Sustaining the momentum of co-operation with the local population" is of utmost importance, he added.
Maintaining security is not an easy task, he said, noting that it requires setting up a comprehensive intelligence database that includes the names and identity of wanted individuals and displaying wanted posters in the streets, with rewards for anyone that helps identify their whereabouts.