Iraqi security forces and Shiite fighters backed by Iranian security forces have recaptured certain parts of the Iraqi city of Baiji. The news was confirmed by a U.S. defense official to Fox News on Monday.
The official said that certain areas of the city, being pivotal because of its proximity to the oil refinery, are still under the control of the Islamic State.
“They still have a foothold in both” the refinery and the town, the official said.
Brig. Gen. Saad Maan Ibrahim, spokesman of Joint Operations Command, said the security forces “are now controlling” the downtown Baiji area, saying the attack was an “important victory.”
In an interview, Maan said, “The enemy has suffered a defeat and has sustained heavy losses and we hope that the whole city will be cleared within few days.”
He added that “dozens” of ISIS militants had been killed.
As reported by the U.S. Central Command, three airstrikes have been carried out by the U.S. led coalition in the Baiji area since the weekend. The list detailing the most recent strikes issued Sunday suggested that two airstrikes near Baiji over the weekend had successfully targeted an ISIS tactical unit and a bridge, and also destroyed “an ISIL vehicle.”
Brig. Gen. Nassir al-Fartousi, commander of Iraq’s Interior Ministry Quick Reaction Forces, said that the Iraqi flag could be seen atop a local government building in Baiji. Troops had started progressing and were gaining ground in other areas.
According to Ynet News, Baiji was captured by the Islamic State militants almost a year ago during a military operation. The terrorist organization and government troops had been disputing over the control over the refinery facility, with both groups seeking control. The town’s location on the road to Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, also makes it strategically important.
Baiji is around 250 kilometers north of Baghdad.
With the assistance of U.S.-led airstrikes, the Iraqi and Kurdish forces were able to regain control of the northern city of Tikrit in April. However, the ISIS had provided a setback by taking over Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, last month.
An Islamic caliphate has been declared in parts of Syria and Iraq that ISIS has under its control. Majority of the financing of the terrorist group’s operations is being carried out by oil smuggling.
In Syria, airstrikes were conducted by the U.S.-led coalition in the town of Souran, taken over last week by the ISIS from Syrian rebel groups and members of Nusra Frontal, Al-Qaida’s affiliate in Syria.
The airstrikes were carried out on Saturday night, according to the Local Coordination Committees and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Eight members of the terrorist group and a local Syrian commander were killed in the strikes, which also injured 20.
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