Iraqi forces in major push against ISIL

Iraqi forces in major push against ISIL

BAGHDAD – Agence France-Presse
Iraqi forces in major push against ISIL

Shiite fighters gather to fight against ISIL militants in Baiji, Iraq, October 14, 2015. Reuters Photo

Iraqi forces battled Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) on separate fronts on Oct. 15, ramping up operations to retake Baiji and Ramadi, two of the conflict’s worst flashpoints.

The Baiji area has seen almost uninterrupted fighting since ISIL  swept across Iraq last year, but top officers said on Oct. 15 the Baiji refinery, the country’s largest, was almost secure.

There were contradictory statements from the armed forces and the allied paramilitary Popular Mobilisation (Hashed al-Shaabi) on whether or not the refinery had been fully retaken.

Senior commanders said it had been “completely cleared” but the Joint Operations Command said late on Oct. 14 the sprawling complex had not yet been extensively swept by Iraqi forces.

A lieutenant colonel speaking from inside the complex told AFP troops had rained rockets on IS positions there over the past two days.

He said large numbers of wounded jihadists were thought to have been evacuated to nearby Sharqat and Hawijah.

The refinery, which once produced 300,000 barrels per day of refined products meeting half of Iraq’s needs, is said to have been damaged beyond repair and to no longer be of huge strategic interest.

However, the Baiji area is at a crossroads between several key frontlines and officers said there is a push north past the refinery to further cut ISIL supply lines.