BAGHDAD, Dec. 16 (Xinhua) -- Iraqi security forces launched an operation on Saturday to hunt down remnants of Islamic State (IS) militants at rugged rural area in northern central Iraq, the Iraqi military said.
On Saturday morning, the troops backed by paramilitary Hashd Shaabi brigades advanced from three directions to clear Mteibijah area near the border between the provinces of Salahudin and Diyala, the media office of the Iraqi Joint Operations Command (JOC) said in a brief statement.
At the end of the day, the troops searched 14 villages scattered in the area and managed to destroy an IS hideout and detonated nine roadside bombs, the JOC said in a separate statement.
The troops will continue the operation in the coming days until they clear the whole the sprawling rugged area that extend from western part of Diyala to Himreen mountainous area and nearby Mteibijah area in the neighboring Salahudin province.
Dozens of IS militants fled their former bases in Salahudin province and Hawijah area in west of Kirkuk after the Iraqi forces cleared these areas from the extremist militants during anti-IS offensives in the past few months.
On Dec. 9, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi officially declared full liberation of Iraq from IS militants after Iraqi forces recaptured all the areas once seized by the extremist group.
However, small groups of IS militants resorted to deserts and rugged areas looking for safe havens but the security forces are hunting them down from time to time.