10 militants killed in Iraq anti-Islamic State group operation: army

10 militants killed in Iraq anti-Islamic State group operation: army
The Iraqi army announced on Sunday that it had killed 10 members of the extremist Islamic State group over the weekend.
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The operation was launched across several provinces in northern and central Iraq [Getty]

Iraqi forces have killed 10 militants during an operation against Islamic State (IS) group remnants in a vast desert area northwest of Baghdad, authorities said Sunday.

An Iraqi security source told AFP the operation was "a pre-emptive measure" to thwart attacks allegedly planned for the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which begins on Monday for many.

The army said in a statement that troops have killed "10 terrorists in the past 24 hours".

The operation, launched on Saturday across several provinces in northern and central Iraq, involves the regular army and Hashed al-Shaabi, mainly pro-Iran former paramilitaries now integrated into the Iraqi armed forces.

State media reported that four militants were killed on Sunday and six on Saturday in Wadi al-Tharthar, an area that stretches between Salaheddine and Anbar provinces.

Translation: A heroic act in the Anbar desert culminated in successful airstrikes in Wadi Tharthar

IS overran large swathes of Iraq and neighbouring Syria in 2014, proclaiming its "caliphate" and launching a reign of terror.

It was defeated in Iraq in 2017 by Iraqi forces backed by a US-led military coalition, and in 2019 lost the last territory it held in Syria to US-backed Kurdish forces.

But its remnants continue to carry out deadly hit-and-run attacks and ambushes, particularly from remote areas and desert hideouts.

In a report published in January, the United Nations said IS has "between 3,000 and 5,000 fighters" across Iraq and Syria.

"Iraqi forces succeeded in targeting operatives and disrupting sleeper cells," the report said.

"But the group persisted in conducting periodic attacks and replenishing leadership ranks."

Last month the United States and Iraq opened talks on the future of the US-led coalition, following a request by Baghdad for a timeline for ending its mission in the country.

Iraqi officials insist that IS no longer constitutes a significant threat and that the army and security forces are capable of thwarting its remnants.