Iraqi forces have cleared a number of isolated areas in the north and west of Diyala province of "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) remnants as part of the Vengeance for the Martyrs security campaign, a local official told Diyaruna.
Joint army and police forces kicked off the campaign on July 4th in the three neighbouring provinces of Diyala, Salaheddine and Kirkuk following increased activity of ISIS remnants who have been targeting defenceless civilians in the area.
"The campaign has achieved its objectives with great success," Diyala provincial council security committee member Abdul Khaliq al-Azzawi told Diyaruna Tuesday (July 17th).
Security forces in the province have conducted extensive pursuits of remaining ISIS elements deep in the Hamreen hills range, al-Azim Basin and the rest of the areas in the north and west of Diyala, adjacent to Salaheddine province, he said.
"Many villages have been searched, mostly deserted villages whose population has been displaced for nearly three years due to their location in areas that lie far from security coverage," al-Azzawi said.
The search operations included the areas of al-Jabal, Albu Issa, Albu Hawwad and Subayaat, he said, adding that security forces have imposed their full control over these areas and deployed three Iraqi army regiments to hold the territory.
ISIS has received a painful blow in areas it considered "strategic", since they granted the group greater ability to hide and move freely, al-Azzawi said.
"Dozens of [ISIS] remnants have either been killed or arrested in this security campaign and many tunnels and rest-houses have been blown up," he added.
Protests 'will not affect' security efforts
Al-Azzawi said that the protests that have been staged across several Iraqi provinces in the south and centre of the country over the past two weeks "will not affect the efforts to tackle the remnants of terrorism".
Protestors have been demanding social change and improved public services.
"Our forces will continue to perform their duties at the same pace and will not allow ISIS to take advantage of the demonstrations to regroup and step up its criminal activities," al-Azzawi said.
Diyala residents have supported the peaceful demonstrations and submitted their own demands to their local administration, he said.
"But the priority today for the people is to get completely free of ISIS cells and pockets that continue to threaten their security and to bring back all internally displaced persons to their areas," he said.