Iraq's military communications center said on Wednesday that anti-terror forces, backed by the international anti-ISIS coalition, had killed 39 members of the so-called ISIS terrorist group in clashes in northern parts of Salahuddin Province.
The operation comes as the terrorist organization continues to carry out insurgency-style attacks, often in and near territories of disputed claim between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the federal Iraqi government.
In recent months, the group has increasingly relied on kidnapping civilians from rural parts of these areas and holding them for ransom, fueling security concerns among local residents. In the third reported case in recent weeks, suspected Islamic State militants released two Kurds from Kirkuk in exchange for $80,000 paid by family members.
This week's military operation took place outside of Kirkuk, where counter-terrorism units clashed with Islamic State sleeper cells in the Khanoka Mountains located about 100 kilometers north of the city of Tikrit near the Tigris River, read a statement from Iraq's Security Media Cell.