Troops ad­vance against IS in re­fin­ery town: Iraq

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY SI­NAN SALA­HED­DIN

Iraqi troops backed by Shi­ite mili­tias re­cap­tured key parts of the north­ern re­fin­ery town of Beiji from Is­lamic State mil­i­tants on Sun­day, a gen­eral said.

The com­man­der of the In­te­rior Min­istry’s Quick Re­ac­tion Forces, Brig. Gen. Nas­sir al-Far­tousi, told state TV that the Iraqi flag was raised over a lo­cal gov­ern­ment build­ing in Beiji and that troops were ad­vanc­ing to other ar­eas, with­out elab­o­rat­ing.

The spokesman of Joint Op­er­a­tions Com­mand, Brig. Gen. Saad Maan Ibrahim, said the se­cu­rity forces “are now con­trol­ling” the down­town Beiji area, de­scrib­ing the ad­vance as an “im­por­tant victory.”

“The en­emy has suf­fered a de­feat and has sus­tained heavy losses and we hope that the whole city will be cleared within few days,” Maan told The As­so­ci­ated Press in a brief in­ter­view, say­ing “dozens” of IS mil­i­tants had been killed.

There was no word on the fate of the con­tested re­fin­ery on the town’s out­skirts, but Maan said the cap­ture of Beiji would help Iraqi forces to bet­ter se­cure the nearby Beiji re­fin­ery — Iraq’s largest oil re­fin­ing fa­cil­ity and key to the coun­try’s do­mes­tic sup­plies.

Beiji, some 250 kilo­me­ters (155 miles) north of Bagh­dad, fell to the ex­trem­ist IS group dur­ing its blitz across north­ern Iraq nearly a year ago, but the re­fin­ery fa­cil­ity has re­mained con­tested ground with IS mil­i­tants and gov­ern­ment forces bat­tling for con­trol. The town is also strate­gi­cally sig­nif­i­cant as it lies on the road to ISheld Mo­sul, Iraq’s sec­ond largest city.

Iraqi and Kur­dish forces have man­aged to roll back the IS group in many parts of the coun­try with the help of U.S.-led airstrikes, and re­cap­tured the north­ern city of Tikrit in April. But last month the IS group scored a ma­jor victory by cap­tur­ing Ra­madi, the cap­i­tal of An­bar prov­ince.

The IS group has de­clared an Is­lamic caliphate in the ter­ri­to­ries it con­trols in Syria and Iraq, and has used oil smug­gling to fi­nance much of its op­er­a­tions.

In neigh­bor­ing Syria, the U.S.led coali­tion car­ried out airstrikes against IS po­si­tions in the north­ern town of Souran, which the IS group cap­tured last week from Syr­ian rebel groups and mem­bers of al-Qaida’s af­fil­i­ate in Syria, the Nusra Front.

The Lo­cal Co­or­di­na­tion Com­mit­tees and the Bri­tain- based Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights said the airstrikes oc­curred Satur­day night. The Ob­ser­va­tory said the airstrikes killed eight IS mem­bers, in­clud­ing a lo­cal Syr­ian com­man­der, and wounded 20.

The coali­tion airstrikes against IS in Souran were the first in the area since the ex­trem­ist group launched an of­fen­sive last month on the north­ern parts of Aleppo prov­ince close to the Turk­ish bor­der. IS has cap­tured sev­eral vil­lages and towns from the Nusra Front and Syr­ian rebels.

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