BAGHDAD, Feb. 14 (Xinhua) -- A total of six Islamic State (IS) militants and a police officer were killed on Thursday in separate incidents in Iraq's north-central province of Salahudin, a provincial police source said.
"A joint force of Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) and provincial police commandos conducted an operation against IS hideouts in Mteibijah, a rugged area in the eastern part of the province, killing six of the extremist militants and confiscating a cache of weapons and ammunition," Mohammed Khalil al-Bazi from the provincial police command told Xinhua.
Iraqi security forces repeatedly tried to retake the control of Mteibijah, but the vast rugged land and nearby Himreen mountainous area have made it difficult for them to completely clear the area of the extremist militants.
Earlier, hundreds of IS militants fled their former bases in the key cities in Salahudin, including the provincial capital Tikrit, some 170 km north of Baghdad, after the Iraqi forces cleared these areas during major anti-IS offensives.
In another incident, a roadside bomb explosion near Makhoul Mountain, some 50 km north of Tikrit, killed Ghalib Khattab, head of explosives directorate of the provincial police, and wounded his driver.
In December 2017, Iraq declared full liberation from the IS after the security forces and the paramilitary Hashd Shaabi units, backed by the anti-IS international coalition, recaptured all areas once seized by the extremist group.
However, IS remnants have since melted in urban areas or resorted to deserts and rugged areas as safe havens, carrying out guerilla attacks from time to time against the security forces and civilians.