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Iraqi security forces enter Baiji refinery: state TV

Iraqi security forces enter Baiji refinery: state TV





Credit: Reuters/Stringer
BAGHDAD
(Reuters) - Security forces entered Iraq's largest refinery for the first time
on Tuesday after months of battling Islamic State militants who had surrounded
it, a police colonel said.


Police sources said security forces were clearing out mines from the refinery
complex and had moved to an area just to the northwest where they faced some
resistance from Islamic State militants. The insurgents still have a presence
there.

Complete recovery of the Baiji facility could provide critical momentum for
government forces charged with restoring stability in a country facing its worst
security crisis since dictator Saddam Hussein was toppled in 2003.

"The first Iraqi force, the anti-terrorism force called Mosul Battalion,
entered Baiji refinery for the first time in five months," police colonel Saleh
Jaber of the Baiji refinery protection force told Reuters.

State television flashed news of the advance and broadcast footage it said
was of Iraqi security forces entering the refinery's gate.

"In this area, terrorists were stationed to the left and right. If God is
willing, Baiji will be the main key to liberating each span of Iraq," the
commander of provincial security operations, Abdel Wahab al-Sa'adi, told the
broadcaster.

U.S-led air strikes have prevented the Islamist group, which swept through
northern Iraq in June almost unopposed by the Iraqi army, from making
significant further territorial gains for its self-proclaimed caliphate.


Islamic State seized the city of Baiji and surrounded the sprawling refinery
during that first advance in June.

Islamic State has stolen oil and petroleum products from areas it controls in
an effort to create a self-sustaining Islamic empire, oil officials say.


Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi sacked 26 military commanders

this month for corruption in an apparent bid to show the government is
serious about improving the performance of the army to counter Islamic State.


The Baiji refinery was producing around 175,000 barrels per day before it was
closed, a senior Iraqi official said in June. Iraq’s domestic daily consumption
is estimated at 600,000-700,000 bpd.
















(Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Angus
MacSwan
)
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