BAGHDAD, June 15 (Xinhua) -- Iraqi security forces have killed some 279 insurgents in four provinces across the country in the past 24 hours, a security spokesman said on Sunday.
"The Iraqi forces have launched intensive attacks on terrorist groups in the provinces of Salahudin, Diyala and Nineveh, resulting in the killing of 279 terrorists. More than 14 vehicles loaded with terrorists and weapons were burned," Lieutenant General Qassim Atta, spokesman of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, told a news conference.
Atta also said that more than 30 terrorists were killed in sporadic insurgent attacks in the northern part of Babil province.
In addition, Atta praised the people of the northwestern city of Tal Afar, some 50 km west of Mosul, who backed the security forces and repelled a major militant attack on their city.
Earlier on Sunday, a security source from Nineveh province said that fierce battles had flared since late Saturday around Tal Afar between Iraqi security forces, backed by groups of volunteers, and militants who tried to seize the city. The militants fired mortar rounds on the city, leaving at least five people killed and some 35 others wounded, the source added.
The Sunni-majority province of Nineveh and its capital Mosul has long been a stronghold for insurgent groups, including al- Qaida militants, since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Large parts of the province are now in the hands of militant groups after their bloody clashes with Iraqi security forces last week. The militants later seized swathes of territories after the Iraqi security forces withdrew from their posts in Nineveh and other predominantly Sunni provinces.