Baghdad, Nov 18 (IANS) Iraqi security forces launched a major offensive to recapture the town of Saadiyah in the eastern province of Diyala Tuesday while troops retook control of a village near the country’s largest oil refinery in Salahudin province, security sources said.
Early Tuesday, security forces backed by Shia militias and aircraft carried out an offensive to free the town of Saadiyah, some 120 km northeast of Iraq’s capital Baghdad, from Islamic State (IS) terrorist group, Jamil al-Shimary, the provincial police chief, told Xinhua.
“The troops fought heavy clashes with the IS militants when they arrived at the edges of Saadiyah, which has been seized by the IS militants for some five months, leaving an undetermined number of extremist militants killed and destroying at least one vehicle carrying heavy machine gun,” al-Shimary said.
Meanwhile, Ali al-Bawi, commander of a provincial police brigade, and one of his bodyguards were killed when several roadside bombs went off near their convoy in Imam Wies area, some 110 km northeast of Baghdad, a security source from Diyala’s Operations Command told Xinhua.
In Salahudin province, Iraqi security forces backed by militiamen and aircraft recaptured the village of Albu-Jewari, just near the town of Baiji and its nearby oil refinery, some 200 km north of Baghdad, the state-run Iraqiya television reported.
The Iraqiya channel also broadcast footage showing Iraqi forces entering the oil refinery.
“The troops have been fighting for more than a month to defeat Daash (the Arabic name for IS) militants and free Baiji area, which will be a launching pad to free all the Iraqi territories that are seized by Daash,” the television quoted an army officer as saying at the refinery.
On Sunday, the security forces broke the IS group’s five-month siege of the country’s largest oil refinery, just days after recapturing the town of Baiji itself after fierce clashes, but it took several days to defuse hundreds of roadside bombs and mines which were planted by the extremists in and around the town and the refinery.
The recapture of Baiji would let Iraqi security forces launch another major offensive to expel the IS militants from Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s hometown and the capital of Salahudin province, which has been under the control of the extremist Sunni militants since June 11.
The seizure of Salahudin province was part of the June 10 deterioration in the security situation in the country when bloody clashes broke out between Iraqi security forces and Sunni militants who took control of the country’s northern city of Mosul and later seized swathes of territories in Nineveh and other predominantly Sunni provinces.