BAGHDAD, Aug. 6 — More than 170 suspected Islamic State (IS) militants were killed in a series of airstrikes near the town of Shirqat in Iraq’s northern central province of Salahudin, the Iraqi military said on Sunday.
“The Iraqi army’s helicopter gunships, in coordination with Salahudin’s Operations Command (SOC), carried out effective airstrikes on Daesh terrorist gangs (IS group) in Tasnei’ Askari area in southwest of Shirqat, some 280 km north of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, leaving a total of 170 terrorists killed,” the defense ministry said in a statement.
The airstrikes also hit eight posts with heavy machine guns, two trucks carrying machine guns and 11 vehicles carrying weapons and militants, the statement said.
Meanwhile, a SOC force conducted a search campaign in the areas of Ayn al-Faras and E’eiwij in the northwestern part of the province and destroyed two IS hideouts and four of their motorcycles, along with arresting an IS member driving a truck for the terrorist group, according to the statement.
The helicopter gunships and the troops targeted IS militants who infiltrated into the opened areas near the western bank of Shirqat from the IS-held eastern bank of the town across the Tigris River, which bisects the town.
In September 2016, the Iraqi forces recaptured the western bank of Shirqat from IS militants during the troops advance northward to dislodge IS militants from the northern province of Nineveh and its capital Mosul, some 400 km north of Baghdad.
On July 10, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi officially declared Mosul’s liberation from IS after nearly nine months of fierce fighting to dislodge the extremist militants from their last major stronghold in Iraq.
Abadi has declared a new plan to be implemented soon to liberate the IS-held town of Tal Afar, some 70 km west of Mosul, from the extremist militants, which will include the participation of the predominantly Shiite paramilitary Hashd Shaabi units and Sunni tribal fighters.
The Iraqi forces still have to wage more offensives to drive out IS militants from their redoubts on the eastern bank of Shirqat, Hawijah in southwestern Kirkuk and the adjacent sprawling rugged areas in eastern Salahudin province, in addition to the remaining IS strongholds in the border towns with Syria in western Anbar province.