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Iraq security forces hit the ground in Kirkuk and Salahuddin provinces Tuesday arresting militants suspected of being members of al Qaeda. Al Qaeda-linked Sunni militants have recently stepped up attacks on security forces, civilians and anyone seen as supporting the Shi'ite-led government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. The Iraqi forces seized weapons and explosive materials. The operation, comes after at least 18 soldiers including a division commander were killed in the area over the weekend. During the course of the operation a roadside bomb exploded. The Iraqi Defense Ministry also released footage of an operation in Anbar province showing militants running for cover. Military officials described the operation as the largest launched by Iraqi forces since U.S. troops withdrew from the country, and said they have killed at least 20 militants.