BAGHDAD, March 11 (Xinhua) -- Iraqi security forces launched Sunday an operation to clear remnants of Islamic State (IS) militants from villages near Iraq's northern city of Kirkuk, the Iraqi military said.
A statement by the paramilitary Hashd Shaabi said that the federal police and several Hashd Shaabi brigades advanced in the early morning to drive out IS militants from a cluster of villages around the town of al-Ryahd in southwest of the city of Kirkuk, some 250 km north of Baghdad.
The operations was based on intelligence reports, which said that a number of IS militants hide in the area and are preparing for terrorist attacks against the security forces and civilians in the oil-rich Kirkuk province, the statement said.
During the past few months, dozens of IS militants fled their former urban strongholds in Mosul, Salahudin province and Hawijah area in the west of Kirkuk after the Iraqi forces cleared these areas during major anti-IS offensives.
However, remnants of IS militants resorted to hideouts in rugged areas near the rivers of Tigris and Zab, as well as Himreen mountainous areas to continue their almost daily attacks against civilians and Iraqi forces.
On Dec. 9, 2017, 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 and individuals of IS militants are still capable of carrying out attacks against the security forces and civilians despite operations from time to time to hunt them down.