The Iraqi army on Saturday began “large-scale” operations aimed at mopping up the remaining Daesh presence in the east-central Diyala province, according to security sources.
“Troops from the army’s 5th Division, accompanied by Federal Police units and Hashd al-Shaabi fighters, began large-scale operations on Saturday morning aimed at hunting down Daesh militants still in Diyala,” Police Captain Habib al-Shemmari told Anadolu Agency.
Incorporated into the Iraqi military last year, the Hashd al-Shaabi is a Shia fighting force that has participated in most of the army’s recent anti-Daesh operations.
Supported by the Iraqi air force, mop-up operations in Diyala were launched along three separate axes, targeting the Al-Thalab, Qizlaq and Al-Hadedeen Valley areas, “where Daesh cells are still active”, according to al-Shemmari.
Recent weeks have seen several attacks by Daesh militants on security personnel deployed in Diyala, which lies to the immediate northeast of capital Baghdad.
The army is also in the process of deploying troops to the Al-Shirqat and Hawija districts -- respectively located in the Saladin and Kirkuk provinces -- with the aim of extirpating the Daesh presence in northern Iraq.
In a related development, at least eight Daesh militants and one pro-government tribal fighter were killed in clashes in the northern Mosul province, according to Army Colonel Ahmed al-Jubouri.
“Clashes erupted Saturday between Daesh terrorists and Hashd al-Ashaeri fighters in Mosul’s southeastern village of Al-Adla and the Nimrod district,” al-Jubouri told Anadolu Agency.
The Hashd al-Ashaeri is a pro-government fighting force made up of Sunni tribal volunteers, who, like the Hashd al-Shaabi, fight alongside the Iraqi army.
Daesh, which overran much of northern and western Iraq in mid-2014, has recently suffered a string of major defeats at the hands of Iraqi security forces and a U.S.-led military coalition.
Late last month, the terrorist group was driven from the Tal Afar district in the northern Nineveh province. And in July, the city of Mosul -- once the capital of Daesh’s self-proclaimed “caliphate” -- fell to the army after a nine-month campaign.
By Hussein al-Amir, Mohamed Walid and Sarhad Shakir in Diyala and Nineveh