BAGHDAD, July 4 (Xinhua) -- Iraqi security forces Wednesday launched an operation to hunt down Islamic State (IS) militants in rugged area in the provinces of Diyala and Salahudin, the Iraqi military said.
A joint force from the Iraqi army, police and paramilitary Hashd Shaabi brigades advanced in the morning in vast area in east of Diyala-Kirkuk road that passes through the provinces of Diyala and Salahudin, a statement by the media office of the Joint Operations Command (JOC) said.
Hours during the day, the troops, backed by Iraqi warplanes and helicopter gunships, cleared large part of the area, destroying nine IS hideouts and a booby-trapped car, leaving an IS militant killed and nine suspects captured, the statement said.
The troops also discovered an IS medical center and a base for training the extremist militants, it added.
Meanwhile, Hashd Shaabi said in a separate statement that the Interior Ministry's commandos, known as Rapid Response, arrived at the defensive lines of the Peshmerga forces after clearing five villages from IS militants in the rugged area near Himreen mountain range.
The troops found eight explosive-belts, defused 21 roadside bombs and destroyed eight IS hideouts.
On June 30, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, also the commander-in-chief of Iraqi forces, pledged to hunt down IS militants across Iraq after recent attacks and abductions carried out by the terrorist group.
"We will chase the remaining cells of terrorism in their hideouts and we will kill them, we will chase them everywhere, in the mountains and the desert," Abadi said.
The latest deterioration in security put the Iraqi security forces under strong criticism for failing to stop the repeated attacks of IS militants on security forces and civilians, as well as kidnapping dozens of people at fake checkpoints on a main road between Baghdad and Kirkuk.
On Dec. 9, 2017, Abadi officially declared full liberation of Iraq from the IS. However, small groups of IS militants have since regrouped in rugged areas, carrying out attacks against security forces and civilians from time to time.