Iraqi police, pro-gov’t fighters hunt for Islamic State militants in Kirkuk

An Iraqi soldier

Kirkuk ( – Iraqi police, backed by pro-government fighters, started on Sunday a security operation to purge villages located in southwestern the oil-rich Kirkuk province from Islamic State (IS) militants.

According to a military statement published by Sputnik, the security operation was launched “upon accurate intelligence reports to purge villages in Riyad district, southwest of Kirkuk, from Islamic State militants.”

Federal police, backed by Iraqi warplanes and fighters of the 2nd, 11th, 16th and 41st brigades of al-Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Forces) are taking part in the operation.

“Intelligence reports indicated that many IS militants are hiding at villages in Riyad district as they plan to carry out terrorist attacks there,” the statement read.

Kirkuk officials previously urged reinforcing military troops in the south and west of the province, as the region still has Islamic State members who escaped during the liberation of Hawija to remote areas.

Islamic State continues to launch sporadic attacks across Iraq against troops. Security reports indicate that the militant group still poses a threat against stability in the country.

Thousands of IS militants as well as Iraqi civilians were killed since a government campaign, backed by paramilitary troops and a U.S.-led international coalition, was launched in October 2016 to fight the militant group, which declared a self-styled “caliphate” from Mosul in June 2014.

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