BAGHDAD, July 13 (Xinhua) -- Iraqi security forces continued Sunday battles against the Sunni insurgent groups across Iraq, security sources said.
In Salahudin province, the security forces fought fierce clashes with Sunni militants, including those who are linked to the Islamic State (IS), an al-Qaida offshoot, in al-Qadsiyah district in the provincial capital city of Tikrit, some 170 km north of Baghdad, leaving 41 militants killed and destroying 26 of their vehicles, the military spokesman Major General Qasim Atta told news conference in Baghdad.
The troops are trying to grip the district to use it as a launching pad to seize the central of Tikrit, Atta said.
Earlier, Atta said that the Iraqi forces are preparing for a major offensive to retake Tikrit from the Sunni militants within a short period, but the troops are acting cautiously to avoid casualties among civilians.
Also in the province, the security forces repelled a new attack by insurgents on Baiji refinery, just near the city of Baiji, some 200 km north of the Iraqi capital, Atta said.
A total of 20 militants were killed and many of their vehicles were destroyed in the battles near the refinery and some separate clashes across the province, Atta added.
In Anbar province, the security forces repelled a major offensive by militant groups which started on Saturday to seize the city of Haditha, around 200 km west of Baghdad, and the nearby dam on the Euphrates River, Atta said, adding that a number of soldiers, including an officer, and two Sahwa members were killed by the clashes.
On Saturday, Atta said that the troops and some government- backed Sahwa paramilitary group fought back the attacks on Haditha and the dam and killed some 40 militants.
Separately, the security forces backed by aircraft continued their attacks since the early morning hours on the provincial capital city of Ramadi, 110 km west of Baghdad, and the nearby militant-seized city of Fallujah, leaving at least 21 militants killed and some nine of their vehicles destroyed, he said.
In addition, the Iraqi aircraft bombarded the border crossing point of al-Qaim with Syria, which is under control of the militant groups, and killed some 20 militants, Atta said without giving further details.
In Iraq's eastern province of Diyala, the security forces backed by volunteers and helicopters continued their fighting against Sunni militants in the rural areas around the city of Maqdadiyah, some 100 km northeast of Baghdad, killing 23 militants and destroying six vehicles and three booby-trapped houses, he said.
A provincial security source told Xinhua that the security forces killed one of IS militant group leaders and two of his aides, in a clash at a village near Maqdadiyah. The killed leader said to be a cousin to the IS top leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
In a separate incident, an aircraft pounded a hideout of IS militants near a town located to the north of Baquba, some 65 km northeast of Baghdad, leaving five militants killed, the source citing intelligence reports.
Also in Diyala, Kurdish security forces, known as Peshmerga, fought insurgent groups who seized the southern part of the city of Jalawlaa, 70 km northeast of Baquba, and killed a leader of Naqshabandiya militant group, the source anonymously told Xinhua.
In south of Baghdad, the troops backed by warplanes and helicopters continued clearing Jurf al-Sakhar area, which is located in the northern part of Babil province, from the Sunni militants who seized large swathes of rural areas of the province, Atta said.
The sectarian mixed province of Babil has been part of the latest Sunni insurgency against the Shiite-led government. The area in north of Hilla, which is located about 100 km south of Baghdad, is known as the Triangle of Death. It is a cluster of Sunni towns scattered north of the province.
Iraq has been witnessing some of the worst violence in years. About a month ago, armed Sunni insurgents, spearheaded by the IS, launched a surprise offensive that led to the debacle of Iraqi security forces and the fallen of a large part of the country's northern and western territories.