BAGHDAD, June 30 (Xinhua) -- Iraqi security forces on Thursday freed several areas and villages from the Islamic State (IS) militants in central and northern Iraq, security sources said.
In the western province of Anbar, the security forces and allied paramilitary Hashd Shaabi units recaptured the areas of al-Hessi and Albu Eifan in southwest of the city of Fallujah, some 50 km west of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, after clashes with the IS militants, leaving at least 17 militants killed and destroying three of their vehicles, a provincial security source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
Meanwhile, the U.S.-led coalition aircraft bombarded a convoy of IS vehicles in al-Jeraishi area in north of Anbar's provincial capital city of Ramadi, some 110 km west of Baghdad, destroying at least four vehicles and killing 13 militants.
Apparently, the convoy in Jeraishi had fled their stronghold in Fallujah earlier and headed toward the desert in north of Ramadi, the source added.
Earlier in the day, a provincial security source told Xinhua that hundreds of IS militants were killed and their vehicles destroyed in a series of airstrikes targeting their convoys across the province starting in early Wednesday when they fled Fallujah.
The latest heavy IS casualties came after security forces and allied paramilitary Hashd Shaabi units recaptured Fallujah on June 26, following a month of intense battles.
In northern Iraq, the security forces fought heavy clashes with IS militants and retook control of the villages of al-Derbas and Albu Wawi near the IS-held town of Qayyara, some 50 km south of the IS stronghold in Mosul, leaving 15 IS militants killed, a security source anonymously told Xinhua.
In Salahudin province, the troops continued their advance in the northern part of the province which located in northern central Iraq and managed to drive out IS militants from the village of Ramadaniyat in north of the provincial capital city of Tikrit, which itself located some 170 km north of Baghdad, a provincial security source told Xinhua.
Meanwhile, the troops advanced toward the IS-held town of Shirqat, some 280 km north of Baghdad, and engaged in sporadic clashes with IS militants that left an officer and a soldier killed and six soldiers wounded, the source said.
The troops also continued their advance northward to free the remaining areas from IS militants in the northern part of Salahudin province, before heading to free the militant-seized town of Qayyara in the adjacent Nineveh province, the source added.
The operations in the province are part of a major offensive to free areas in south of Mosul, including the town of Qayyara, so as to surround Mosul from the south and east, before attacking major IS strongholds in Mosul to flush out IS militants from the city, 400 km north of Baghdad.
In a separate incident, at least three people were killed and 14 wounded when a suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest at a crowded marketplace in Shurta al-Rab'a district in southwestern Baghdad, a police source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
Iraq has witnessed intense violence since the IS took control of parts of its northern and western regions in June 2014.
Many blame the current chronic instability, cycle of violence, and the emergence of extremist groups such as the IS group on the United States, which invaded Iraq in March 2003 under the pretext of seeking to destroy weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the country.
The war led to the ouster and eventual execution of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, but no WMD was found. Enditem