U.S. and Iraqi security forces have killed at least 60 militants in an all-out sweeping and hunting down al-Qaida militants in the volatile province of Diyala, the U. S. military said on Monday.
"Since the beginning of the operation, 24 booby-trapped structures have been destroyed. Additionally, at least 60 al-Qaida operatives have been killed, 134 have been detained, 45 weapons caches have been discovered and 96 improvised explosive devices have been destroyed," the U.S. military said in a statement.
On June 19, more than 10,000 troops, including 2,000 Iraqi soldiers and policemen, backed by U.S. aircraft, launched the massive assault aiming at hunting for the al-Qaida militants operating in and around Baquba, some 65 km northeast of Baghdad.
U.S. and Iraqi security forces discovered many booby-trapped houses in Baquba that were left behind by al-Qaida militants as they attempted to flee the town, the statement said.
"The house-borne IED (improvised explosive device) threat here is unlike anywhere else in Iraq at the present," the statement quoted Col. Steve Townsend, commander of a U.S. combat team, as saying.
On Sunday, the Iraqi Islamic Party, headed by Iraqi Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, criticized the U.S.-led operation in Diyala, saying the troops were conducting "collective punishment" against the residents.
The party said in a statement that the U.S. forces and aircraft bombed several neighborhoods in western Baquba, causing more than 350 people dead, whose bodies are still under the debris.
The party called for a halt to the "massacre" and highlighted the necessity to "distinguish between gunmen and innocent civilians."
Baquba, the capital of the volatile Diyala province, is the stronghold of the extremist Sunni militants of al-Qaida.