BAGHDAD, Aug. 9 (Xinhua) -- Four Iraqi soldiers were killed and five others injured in an overnight attack by Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq's central province of Salahudin, a provincial security source said on Thursday.
Fierce clashes erupted late on Wednesday night when IS militants attacked an army outpost in the rugged area of Mteibijah near Salahudin's eastern provincial border with neighboring Diyala province, Major Alaa al-Saadi, from Diyala Operations Command, told Xinhua.
Early in the morning, reinforcement troops arrived to the area and began an operation to hunt down the attackers who fled the scene under the dark, Saadi said.
The soldiers in the outpost who repelled the attack killed and wounded some of the attackers, but their number is not known as the militants evacuated their casualties when they withdrew from the scene, Saadi said.
The rugged area of Mteibijah, some 100 km southeast of Salahudin's provincial capital of Tikrit, has long been a hot bed for the extremist IS militant despite repeated operations by the Iraqi security forces to hunt them down as the militants are using the area as a launching pad to attack civilians and the security forces in the cities in Salahudin and neighboring Diyala provinces.
The key cities of Salahudin province, including Tikrit, which located some 170 km north of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, were captured by IS militants in June 2014, but the Iraqi security forces have freed the province during major anti-IS offensives.
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 IS groups and individuals regrouped in desert and rugged areas and are carrying out attacks against the security forces and civilians despite operations from time to time to hunt them down.