Islamic State insurgents have taken control of half Iraq’s largest oil refinery in Baiji, and have cut supply line to the government troops who are holding out inside the sprawling facility. Last November, Iraqi Security Forces broke a month-long siege of the refinery by ISIL fighters. But they returned and are now on the verge of capturing the refinery.
ISIL now controls “all the major buildings” at Baiji complex, an Iraqi officer told a reporter at McClatchy. 80 percent of the watch towers around the facility is also captured by ISIL fighters, and they have flanked government positions with “snipers and suicide bombers.” (McClatchy, 2 May)
The push by ISIL is an indication of the precarious security situation in Iraq and the fact that the security forces are spread too thin. The refinery has been shut down for a while, but the loss of the facility would be a blow to the government and a huge success for ISIL.
Meanwhile, ISIL took responsibility for late-night car bomb attacks late Saturday in the Karrada district, in the heart of Baghdad, killing at least 19 people. Police said the dead and wounded were mainly shoppers and people commemorating the death of Imam Ali, the key figure in Shia Islam. There has been a major spike in car bombs in Baghdad over the past week, leading to speculations that the insurgents have infiltrated the capital by hiding among thousands of the displaced persons fleeing the fighting in Ramadi.
File photo: Baiji Oil Refinery during its better days (The Guardian)