Iraq says it has purged province of Islamic State militants

Azzaman, January 27, 2015

Iraq says its troops have cleared Province of Diyala of Islamic State militants, the head of the security commission in the province said.

Faleh al-Husaini said the troops “liberated” the town of Meqdadiya and a string of villages north of the provincial capital Baaquba early this week.

Meqdadiya, he added, was the last stronghold which the jihadist group fought tenaciously to keep but failed. But the recapture of the town was not without losses.

“The security organs, police and anti-terror groups supported by volunteers offered 58 martyrs and at least 248 of them were wounded” said Husaini in remarks on military operations in the province. “This has been the price for the liberation of the last stronghold in the hands of Da’esh.”

Da’esh is the Arabic name for the Islamic State.

But the advancing troops and security forces were still facing an uphill task represented in clearing the areas they retake from improvised explosive devices.

Husaini said Iraqi military experts estimate the militants “to have left behind 2000-3000 explosive devices of different sizes planted in roads, orchards and residential areas.”

Lt. Gen. Jameel al-Shammari confirmed Husaini’s remarks that there were no Islamic Jihadists left in the Province of Diyala.

“The province is empty of Da’esh following the liberation of its last bastion of Meqdadiya and its villages,” Shammari said.

The Province Diyala is the first out of six other provinces to have been ‘liberated’ following a lightning attack by Islamic State militants in June last year, which saw them occupying major towns including Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city.

Shammari said the second target for Iraqi troops would be the Province of Anbar, of which Ramadi is the provincial capital.

Islamic State militants still occupy large areas in the provinces of Nineveh, Arbil, Dahouk, Anbar, Kirkuk and Salahudeen.