Skip to main content

IS claims to be in full control of Baiji

The Iraqi army and the Islamic State have been fighting over oil-rich Baiji for months
Iraqi Shia fighters from the Popular Mobilisation units in the town of Baiji, on 10 June (AFP)

The Iraqi army has claimed several times to have broken the Islamic State’s (IS) hold on Baiji and its oil refinery, but sources close to IS allege that these claims are unfounded.

IS remains strongly in control of the oil-rich district, according to IS sources speaking to Arabic news website Arabi21.

“All of Baiji is under IS control. Claims that Iraqi army forces are in Baiji are completely untrue,” Arabi21 reported a source close to the militant group as saying.

“Fierce battles took place last week when Iraqi army forces advanced from the south and west of Baiji, but IS fighters managed to keep them out,” said the source.

“The Iraqi army and the US-led coalition suffered huge losses after they fell into a trap IS had put up for them.”

No other sources have confirmed these claims.

The Iraqi army has been fighting alongside the federal police as well as a Shia militia movement known as the Popular Mobilisation units and backed by the US-led coalition airstrikes.

The same source also alleged that: “A group from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard fighting alongside the Iraqi army were killed and targeted including leading members of a battalion that was fighting to get hold of Baiji.”

On the other hand, however, a commander in the Popular Mobilisation units, Ali Abd al-Hamza told Arabi21: “We have credible sources telling us that IS is on the verge of retreating from Baiji.”

“We do not have a clear time frame for our campaign to free Baiji from IS and maintain Iraqi government control, but the operation is going well,” added Abd al-Hamza.

Iraqi Defense Minister Khaled Ubaidi said in late July that the oil city of Baiji was “almost fully” controlled by government troops after months of fierce clashes between security forces and IS.

Before that, in November last year, the government of Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi announced it had scored one of its most significant victories as his forces recaptured Baiji and broken a months-long siege on its refinery, the country’s largest.

The announcement of the recapture of Baiji, a town located in Salahaddin province and which lies north of Tikrit along the Tigris River, made it the largest town to have been retaken since the federal government lost swathes of the country to the IS-offensive that began in June 2014.