TIKEIT, Iraq, March 26 (Xinhua) -- Two soldiers were killed and a third wounded Monday in a clash between the Iraqi army and insurgent militants, believed to be affiliated with Islamic State (IS) group, in the Iraqi province of Salahudin, a provincial police source said.
The incident took place in the morning when gunmen hiding at a valley opened fire on the soldiers who were conducting a search campaign in Gan'ous area in east of the town of Shirqat, some 280 km north of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, Colonel Mohammed al-Jubouri from Salahudin's Operations Command told Xinhua.
The attack sparked a heavy clash between the two sides, as reinforcement troops and armored vehicles arrived to the scene to clear the valley from the militants, Jubouri said.
The Iraqi forces have been carrying out search operations from time to time to clear the areas around Shirqat from the remnants of IS militants.
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, many of IS remnants 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 regrouped in the rugged areas and are carrying out attacks against the security forces and civilians despite operations from time to time to hunt them down.