Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) forces on Tuesday (February 25th) killed 39 "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) elements who were hiding in the mountains of al-Sharqat district, Salaheddine province, according to local officials.
"CTS fighters carried out surprise operations on Tuesday at 5 a.m. local time in the mountain range between al-Sharqat and Baiji district," Jirjis al-Hijab, the administrator of Ashur district in al-Sharqat, told Diyaruna.
The operations targeted "ISIS remnants hiding in the areas of al-Zawiya, al-Mashak, al-Naml, and the Makhoul and al-Khanouka hills, and the attacking forces clashed with the terrorists holed up in the mountains", he said.
"The clashes, which lasted for several hours, resulted in the killing of 39 terrorists, including senior leaders, two of whom held the position of ISIS sharia mufti and military chief," al-Hijab said.
"Two hideouts were destroyed in an international coalition airstrike," the Security Media Cell said in a statement.
They "contained large quantities of weapons and ammunition, as well as documents, equipment and computers containing information about ISIS financial transactions", it said.
Four CTS forces were wounded in the operation, it said.
"The attack was carefully planned and based on a major intelligence effort, after drones had been hovering over the targeted areas without interruption for two weeks," al-Hijab said, adding that local authorities knew "in advance that a quality military operation would take place".
Severe blow to terrorists
"The terrorist remnants left in the mountains received a severe blow at the elite forces' hands, and these areas, despite the difficult terrain there and difficult access to them, are no longer safe for the terrorists," al-Hijab said.
Tuesday's operation had "an impact on the enemy and was successful by every measure," he said. "[It] complemented the security operations and airstrikes that have hit bases of the terrorist elements in recent months."
"As a result of these operations, the area of Zour Kanous, which was considered the ISIS members' main stronghold, has been cleared," he said.
"Also, the number of terrorists in the mountains and villages has been reduced and their activities undermined, restricting them to moving only at night to search for logistical supplies," al-Hijab said.
"Army and police forces are extensively deployed on the outskirts of the mountains, and in co-operation with al-Sharqat tribes, they have managed to cut off the terrorists' supply lines from the country's western desert," he said.
"Thermal cameras positioned on the bank of the Tigris river monitor the mountains around the clock and secure the villages and centre of al-Sharqat district very effectively," he said.
"ISIS elements remaining in the mountain range are surrounded and unable to carry out any major security activity or breach that will threaten the lives of the population," al-Hijab said.