Sixteen "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) militants were killed after their base was hit by an international coalition airstrike in Ninawa province, the Iraqi Defence Ministry said Tuesday (June 18th).
"Intelligence reports indicated that there was a secret tunnel in the area of Wadi al-Qasab in southern Ninawa province that held a group of senior ISIS leaders," ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. Tahseen al-Khafaji told Diyaruna.
"After analysing the information and verifying it with the Ninawa Operations Command, coalition aircraft carried out a successful strike on the site and destroyed it," al-Khafaji said.
The attack left 16 militants dead, he said, some of whom have been identified, while work is underway to verify the identities of the others.
The militants were "dangerous organisation leaders", he said, adding that the attack "spoiled their plans to carry out terrorist acts against citizens in Ninawa and neighbouring provinces".
The strike will have a significant impact on diminishing the group's remaining offensive capabilities, al-Khafaji said.
"It is one of the most important attacks, characterised by accuracy and the element of surprise," he added.
"We are following them through our intelligence sources and monitoring their movements, and we choose the right time to attack them. We are in control, not them," he stressed.
Bonds of trust with local residents
Security and intelligence forces are hunting down militants in many areas and have killed a large number of them and destroyed their hideouts in the Ninawa desert and the desert valleys in western Anbar and in the Hamreen mountains, he said.
All security operations were conducted with air cover from the Iraqi air force and international coalition aircraft.
There is also a need to increase co-ordination between the security forces, the local people and tribal leaders and dignitaries in the areas where ISIS remnants are trying to resume their activities, al-Khafaji said.
Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, commander-in-chief of the armed forces, has instructed the defence and interior ministries, the Joint Operations Command and the rest of the security agencies to work to establish bonds of trust and good relations with the local population, he said.
"These relations are the foundation of our work, without which we cannot achieve any security gains," al-Khafaji said.