As many as seven al-Qaida fighters and five security members were killed in clashes at a former al-Qaida stronghold in Iraq's eastern province of Diyala, a provincial police told Xinhua on Thursday.
The incident took place late on Wednesday when a group of suspected al-Qaida militants attacked a police patrol in al-Hadid area in northwest of the provincial capital city of Baquba, which located some 65 km northeast of Baghdad, the source said on condition of anonymity.
The attack sparked a fierce clash with the militants, prompting an Iraqi army force backed by helicopters to intervene, the source said.
The clashes resulted in the killing of seven militants and the capture of eight others, while two policemen and three soldiers were killed by the clashes, he said.
An Iraqi army helicopter was hit by a militant's machinegun, but managed to land safely, the source added.
Al-Hadid is a rural area locates some 10 km northwest of Baquba. The palm grove area had been one of main strongholds for al-Qaida militants during the years after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
On Sunday, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the top leader of "the self- styled Islamic State of Iraq", al-Qaida front in the country announced a plan named "Breaking the walls" aimed at releasing Qaida prisoners and to target the country's judges and investigators, as well as to return to the previous al-Qaida strongholds that had evacuated.
Diyala province, which stretches from the eastern edges of Baghdad to the Iranian border east of the country, has long been a stronghold for al-Qaida militants and other insurgent groups since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 despite repeated U.S. and Iraqi military operations against them.