BAGHDAD, April 12 (Xinhua) -- Four Islamic State (IS) militants were killed Friday in clashes with security forces at a rural area in Iraq's eastern province of Diyala, the provincial police chief said.
The clashes erupted during the day, when a joint force from the Iraqi army, police and armed villagers raided an IS hideout in orchards near the village of Mkheisa, some 95 km northeast of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, Faisal al-Abadi, Diyala's provincial police chief, told Xinhua.
Al-Abadi said that one of the four killed militants was a sniper, and that the raid was designed to clear the orchards from the IS sleeper cells in the area after they carried out attack against civilians recently.
Despite repeated military operations in the Diyala province, remnants of IS militants are still hiding in some rugged areas near the border with Iran, and in the sprawling areas extending from the western part of the province to the Himreen mountain range in north of Baquba.
The security situation in Iraq has been dramatically improved after Iraqi security forces fully defeated the extremist IS militants across the country late in 2017.
IS remnants, however, 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 security forces and civilians.