The town of Mutaibija, east of Tikrit, has been fully cleared of "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) pockets as part of a major military campaign to crack down on the group's remaining elements, Iraqi forces announced on Tuesday (December 19th).
The campaign kicked off Saturday to pursue ISIS elements who had fled to Mutaibija from Salaheddine, Kirkuk and Diyala provinces.
Military units from the Tigris, Salaheddine and Samarra operations commands participated in the campaign, along with federal police forces and local fighters.
"The campaign targeted remnants and pockets of ISIS in Mutaibija and surrounding villages and areas," Tigris operations commander Lt. Gen. Mazhar al-Azzawi told Diyaruna.
It spanned large areas between the provinces of Diyala and Salaheddine, which included the villages of Albu Jumaa, al-Mayyita, Albu Hassan and Umm al-Nakhla, and the areas of Hawd al-Athim and Hawi al-Athim.
These areas are characterised by a complex terrain with hills, valleys and rugged roads, alongside agricultural fields.
After the city of al-Hawija in western Kirkuk was liberated on October 5th, many ISIS militants fleeing the fighting opted to hide and regroup in Mutaibija.
"After the declaration of victory over ISIS, the Joint Operations Command decided to launch this joint campaign to completely eliminate the terrorist danger and bring back the displaced population," al-Azzawi said.
"The task of clearing Mutaibija and other targeted areas and villages has been completed in full," he added.
ISIS accrues losses
Operations to return local residents who were driven out of their homes by ISIS over the past three years will be started soon, he said.
"The campaign has resulted in the destruction of many terrorist safe houses and tunnels," al-Azzawi said.
Large piles of the militants' equipment, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), car bombs, generators, and fuel and food stores were also detonated, he said.
Ten ISIS elements hiding in two safe houses were killed in the operations, he said, adding that the bodies of five other militants who were killed by airstrikes were uncovered.
The campaign did not result in the arrest of any armed elements, according to al-Azzawi.
Simultaneously, the Tigris Operations Command carried out extensive operations to search for ISIS elements in different areas of Diyala.
"In recent days, we have carried out raids in the areas of Hawd al-Tabaj, Wadi Thalab and [Hawd] al-Dainiya," al-Azzawi said.
"We were able, with the co-operation of the local population, to kill four terrorists and arrest another who smuggled weapons to ISIS elements," he said.