IS ‘wearing down’ government forces near key Iraqi town

IS ‘wearing down’ government forces near key Iraqi town
Islamic State group (IS) forces are advancing near Baiji, north of Baghdad, threatening to take control of the strategic town, while a suicide bomber kills13 militiamen in Anbar.
3 min read
25 August, 2015
Iraqi forces have suffered heavy casualties in their fight against the IS near Baiji [Getty]

The situation of Iraqi forces battling the Islamic State group (IS) in the area around the strategic refinery of Baiji, north of Baghdad, is now so precarious that unless the situation changes Baiji will fall, a local official said.

This might also mean the loss of all of Saladdin province, Mohammed Nazem, a member of the security committee of Saladdin Council, added.

 Nazem told al-Araby al-Jadeed that: "The IS was wearing down the Iraqi army and the Popular Mobilisation forces over successive battles, wearing down their morale, which was affecting their performance on the battlefield and permitting the IS to advance."

The Iraqi army retook the town of Baiji from the IS last November, but government forces there have come under mounting pressure in recent weeks from the militants who, according to a top commander familiar with the situation, now control 50 percent of the town and the oil refinery to the north.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, who visited the nearby town of al-Mazraa on Monday, said: "Victory at Baiji is crucial to ending Daesh's presence in Iraq", using the Arabic acronym for the IS. His comments were broadcast by state television on Tuesday.

A local source in Baiji told al-Araby that the Iraqi army and popular mobilisation forces had suffered heavy casualties, and this was undermining their morale.

The source added the IS had increased its attacks on many different locations in the area.

He said the IS had taken control of three vital roads in Baiji, all of which lead to Baiji refinery.

The IS controls the Baiji-Sinyia road near the Tigris river, the Baiji-Central Tikrit road and the Siniya and Baiji-Baiji refinery road from the northeast, he said.

Control of these roads grants the IS considerable mobility, allows it to protect its lines of supply and cuts off Iraqi security forces, increasing pressure on them.

A member of the tribal council of Saladdin province, Sheikh Abd al-Khaliq al-Jubouri, told al-Araby previously that the brutal battles in Baiji and ongoing losses there had led to a split in the ranks of the Popular Mobilisation forces and the withdrawal of a number of its groups from the battle.

Suicide bomber kills 13 Sunni militiamen in Anbar

Meanwhile, Iraqi security officials say a suicide car bomber killed 13 troops and allied Sunni militiamen near the insurgent-held capital of the western Anbar province.

The officials say the suicide bomber used an army vehicle to approach forces advancing southeast of Ramadi, west of Baghdad, on Tuesday. They say seven people were wounded in the attack.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, but it bore the hallmarks of the IS, which controls Ramadi and much of the vast Sunni province.

Troops and allied militias have been battling IS militants for months in Anbar but have not been able to dislodge them from areas under their control.