BAGHDAD (AFP) – Iraqi forces killed six suspected Al-Qaeda militants during an operation north of Baghdad on Monday, while two soldiers and seven civilians died in attacks, officials said.
Security forces, who have so far failed to stem the worst violence to hit Iraq in five years, have launched operations targeting militants in various areas in recent days, including in the Baghdad region.
On Monday, security forces killed six militants during clashes with "Al-Qaeda remnants" in the area of Sulaiman Bek, a town north of the capital, army Staff Lieutenant General Abdulamir al-Zaidi said.
Zaidi, who himself narrowly escaped a blast that killed nine soldiers on Saturday, said 10 militants were captured and two car bombs and three motorcycle bombs were disabled.
During the operation a roadside bomb exploded near a military vehicle, killing one soldier, Zaidi said.
Sulaiman Bek was briefly seized by militants in late April, but they later withdrew under a deal worked out by tribal leaders and government officials, allowing security forces back in.
And last month, scores of militants launched an attack on the town, drawing security forces away from a nearby highway. Gunmen then set up a checkpoint, stopped truck drivers and executed 14 who were Shiite Muslims.
Security forces in the Baghdad area, meanwhile, continued an operation dubbed "Avenge the Martyrs," a defence ministry statement said.
It said that over a period of 24 hours, security forces arrested 85 people wanted under an anti-terrorism law and detained a further 192 suspects.
They also discovered three car bomb factories and 219 bombs as well as weapons and explosives, it said.
As security forces hunted militants, the death toll from attacks continued to mount.
Attacks in Baghdad killed at least two people, while in Madain, south of capital, gunmen armed with automatic weapons shot dead a generator owner and his son.
Iraqis who can afford it turn to private generator owners to supplement the sporadic electricity supplies provided by the government.
Another two people were killed by gunmen in Hilla, also south of Baghdad.
And in the northern province of Nineveh, a car bomb killed a soldier and wounded five others, while gunmen killed a civilian.
Violence has increased markedly this year, especially since an April 23 security operation at a Sunni anti-government protest site that sparked clashes in which dozens died.
Protests erupted in Sunni-majority areas in late 2012, amid widespread discontent among Sunnis who accuse the Shiite-led government of marginalising and targeting their community.
Experts say Sunni anger is the main cause of the spike in violence this year.