ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Iraqi military on Monday announced the conclusion of the seventh phase of an ongoing military operation known as "Will of Victory" that aims to seek and destroy remnants of the Islamic State in multiple areas within the provinces of Diyala, Kirkuk, Nineveh, and Salahuddin.
The phase of the campaign was carried out between Saturday and Monday and was primarily focused on routing out sleeper cells of the extremist group, according to a statement, which added that ground troops were supported by the Iraqi air force and operated "in cooperation with the International coalition."
Security forces were able to "destroy 18 ISIS tunnels, demolish 20 bases of the terrorist groups, apprehend 164 explosive belts, safely dispose of 54 improvised explosive devices (IED), and arrest 21 wanted individuals."
The statement said that operations covered an approximate area of 3,257 square kilometers, including the mountain areas of Hamrin and Ajil, the Alas oil fields, and several sectors and villages in Diyala.
Kirkuk Governorate, which is part of disputed territories between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Federal Government of Iraq, has witnessed a series of attacks since last week.
Multiple Islamic State attacks have also occurred in the northern parts of Diyala province as well, in areas controlled both by Iraqi security forces and those controlled by Kurdish forces. The KRG has deployed additional Peshmerga reinforcements to the area to bolster defenses against further assaults.
Islamic State militants have long exploited remote areas of all four provinces to operate and stage attacks on nearby cities and towns, especially where there is a security vacuum caused by a lack of coordination between Iraqi and Kurdish troops.
In past months, Iraqi forces had been carrying out counterterrorism operations as part of its "Will of Victory," campaign nearly every week until most efforts were halted due to ongoing unrest in the country since protests began in early October.
Editing by John J. Catherine