BAGHDAD, July 8 (Xinhua) -- Two Filipino women were freed on Sunday after being kidnapped the day before in Iraq's eastern province of Diyala, while travelling on a main road connecting Kirkuk to the capital Baghdad, a provincial security source said.
"Acting on intelligence reports, an Iraqi security force managed to free the two Filipino women," Lt. Gen. Mezhir al-Azzawi, commander of the security forces responsible for military operations in Diyala, told Xinhua.
"The two women are safe and in good health condition. They have been transferred to a security base," Azzawi said without giving further details.
On Saturday, Azzawi told Xinhua that the security forces received information from "a taxi driver that gunmen kidnapped two Filipino women from his car after they stopped him in al-Udheim area, some 500 km north of the provincial capital Baquba."
The incident came three days after a major offensive was launched by security forces, backed by warplanes and helicopter gunships, to hunt down extremist militants in the rugged area in the provinces of Diyala and Salahudin.
On June 500, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, also the commander in chief of Iraqi forces, pledged to hunt down Islamic State (IS) militants across Iraq after recent attacks and abductions by the terrorist group.
The latest deterioration in security has put the Iraqi government under fire for failing to stop the repeated IS attacks on security forces and civilians, as well as the kidnapping of dozens of people at fake checkpoints on a main road between Baghdad and Kirkuk.
On Dec. 9, 2017, Abadi officially declared full liberation of Iraq from the IS. However, small groups of IS militants have since regrouped in rugged areas, carrying out attacks against security forces and civilians from time to time.