While Iraqi security forces have made progress in reclaiming areas that the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL) had held for months, pro-government groups have also suffered losses at the hand of the group.

An operation launched early on Sunday in Diyala province, northeast of Baghdad, is the latest in a series of drives which have seen the return of some territory lost to a June offensive by ISIL.

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"Army and police and [militia] forces attacked from the southern and western sides of the Jalawla and Saadiyah [areas], while [Kurdish] Peshmerga forces attacked from the northern and eastern sides of Saadiyah," Staff General Abdulamir al-Zaidi told AFP news agency on Sunday, referring to two areas near the Iranian borders.

While some sources said the two areas had been fully retaken, others reported they were still partly outside government control.

According to Karim al-Nuri, a senior commander in the Shia-led Badr group which took part in the operation, 12 members of the anti-ISIL forces were killed by bombs.

The recapture of Saadiyah and Jalawla is of great significance as they are "the main centres of support for [ISIL] militants" whom security forces are seeking to isolate in the nearby Hamreen mountains, an army brigadier-general told AFP.

They are also important because of their proximity to the autonomous Kurdish region which is battling ISIL, and to the border with neighbouring Iran which is also helping Iraqi forces.

Deaths in Beiji

Elsewhere, six Iraqi soldiers were killed  on Sunday by ISIL in sporadic clashes around the northern city of Beiji, in Salahuddin province, which the military liberated last week along with Iraq's largest oil refinery after a months-long siege, but continues to face resistance from remaining pockets.

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Security forces, backed by US-led air strikes and Shia and Sunni tribesmen, also retook the Jurf al-Sakhr area south of Baghdad, which had posed a threat to both the Iraqi capital and the Shia shrine city of Karbala, which millions of pilgrims visit each year.

However, ISIL still holds large areas of the country, including the key cities of Mosul, Tikrit and Fallujah.

In Mosul, for instance, ISIL has taken captive 78 family members of Khalid al-Obeidi, Iraq's defence minister, according to Ismat Rajab, an official of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), quoted by the Kurdish media network Rudaw.

Relatives of Obeidi, among them brothers and cousins, live in the Dindan and Bitarii areas of Mosul, Rajab told Rudaw on Sunday.

"All of their homes have also been taken."

Obeidi, a Sunni, was appointed defence minister by Haider al-Abadi, Iraqi prime minister, last month.

Source: Agencies