Iraqi forces free major oil refinery in Salahudin provinceSource:Xinhua Published: 2015-10-15 8:55:28
Iraqi security forces on Wednesday liberated the country's largest oil refinery from the Islamic State (IS) militants near the town of Baiji in Iraq's northern central province of Salahudin, a provincial security source told Xinhua.
The troops and allied Shiite and Sunni paramilitary units, known as Hashd Shaabi, drove out the IS militants from the vast oil refinery near the battlefield town of Baiji, some 200 km north of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, after a day-long battles with the IS militants, the source said on condition of anonymity.
The troops launched their attacks at dawn after heavy overnight bombardment on the IS positions in Baiji, nearby oil refinery and the small town of Seiniyah, just west of the battleground in Baiji.
The troops also cut all the supply routes and cordoned off the IS-held districts inside the town of Baiji, while fierce clashes continued during the day, the source said, adding that "Baiji battle it is expected to end in the early morning hours of Thursday."
Earlier in the day, the troops and allied militias attacked the town of Seiniyah and managed to recapture a small airbase and cut a major supply route between Salahudin province and the adjacent Anbar province.
The battles in Salahudin province, part of the second phase of major offensive announced late on Monday by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who is also Commander-in-chief of Iraqi armed forces, aimed at freeing towns seized by the IS group since June 2014 in the northern part of Salahudin province.
In April, Iraqi security forces freed the provincial capital city of Tikrit, after weeks of heavy fighting and air strikes by the US-led international bombing campaign against the IS, as well as efforts by Shiite militias of Hashd Shaabi groups.
During the past few months, the security forces and allied militias, backed by Iraqi and the US-led coalition aircraft, were fighting with extremist militants in Baiji and the nearby Iraq's largest oil refinery, but the two sides have been involved in fierce tug-of-war battles.
Salahudin, a predominantly Sunni province with its capital of Tikrit, some 170 km north of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, is the hometown of former President Saddam Hussein.