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article imageIslamic State wages fierce battle to control Iraq refinery

By Ken Hanly     May 14, 2015 in World
Baghdad - The battle for the town of Baiji and the nearby Baiji refinery, the largest in Iraq, began last year in December as Iraqi forces with US air support launched an offensive to retake the facility.
While the refinery was taken by Iraqi forces back in November, it was left with inadequate troops to guard it and was retaken by the Islamic State. The battle for control of the town and refinery began last December. The situation has remained fluid with different areas changing hands several times. On April 23, just shortly after the US and Iraqi government announced that the refinery had been secured and cleared of IS fighters, it was revealed that IS militants were actually still inside the facility. The situation is much worse now.
After an offensive, the IS controls large areas within the refinery and the Iraqi troops remaining are trapped and surrounded. All supply routes to the troops are now cut off. IS fighters have dug and occupied trenches around storage tanks and the refinery making it difficult to bomb them without destroying the facility completely and starting disastrous fires. The refinery has not been operating since last June and would require considerable repairs to restart. An Iraqi colonel said that up to two thirds of the refinery area was under IS control and air strikes could destroy the refinery. Pentagon spokesperson, Colonel Steve Warren, said that the fighting was "flowing in the wrong direction" but that it was impossible to predict how the battle would turn out. Those trapped in the facility include 200 policemen, soldiers, and elite special forces according to an officer at the scene. The appended video by the Islamic State shows them operating within the facility.
General Martin Dempsey stressed last month that the capture of the refinery and the nearby town of Baiji would not only deprive IS of revenue but the capture of the town was crucial for plans to capture the larger city of Mosul. Some analysts question the value of the facility given that it is not operational and is difficult for either side to hold. IS has lost many fighters and considerable equipment in their offensive.
A source within the Salahuddin Operations Command said: "We have to retake Siniya and Baiji towns to cut all supply routes coming from Anbar province and used by Daesh to send reinforcements whenever they need, What’s the point of retaking a location and suffering casualties while nearby areas and supply routes are still controlled by Daesh?" "Daesh" is the Arabic term for the Islamic State or ISIS. Government forces last week started an operation to retake Baiji but have yet to dislodge the IS fighters and have met fierce resistance and appear to be no match for the large resources IS has committed to defend the town.
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