BAGHDAD, Feb. 2 (Xinhua) -- The Iraqi army carried out an offensive against militants north of the capital Baghdad, killing 14 of them, while nine people died in attacks across the country, security sources said on Sunday.
During the two-day offensive, the troops backed by helicopters swept militant positions in the provinces of Salahudin, Kirkuk and Diyala, killing 14 militants, arresting 16 others, and seizing more than 10 booby-trapped cars, caches of weapons and explosives, a source from Salahudin Operation Command told Xinhua.
The offensive was an preemptive operation based on intelligence reports, which said that the militant groups planned to seize Salahudin's provincial capital of Tikrit, some 170 km north of Baghdad, to divert the army's focus on militants fighting in the western province of Anbar, the source said.
Anbar has been engulfed by clashes that flared up after police dismantled an anti-government protest site outside its capital Ramadi in late December.
Separately, four soldiers were killed and another was wounded when gunmen using silenced weapons attacked their checkpoint in a village near the city of Kirkuk, a local police source told Xinhua.
In the eastern province of Diyala, gunmen broke into a Sunni village near the city of Sa'diyah, some 60 km northeast of the provincial capital Baquba, killing five people, including a woman, and wounded three others, a provincial police source told Xinhua.
In another incident, a roadside bomb went off near a house and wounded two civilians in the southern part of Baquba, some 65 km northeast of Baghdad, the source said.
Iraq is witnessing its worst violence in recent years. According to the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, a total of 8,868 Iraqis, including 7,818 civilians and civilian police personnel, were killed in 2013, which is the highest annual death toll for years.