17 Killed Near Baiji Refinery in Iraq

17 Killed Near Baiji Refinery in Iraq17 Killed Near Baiji Refinery in Iraq

Seventeen people were killed in Iraq on Monday in clashes between Islamic State militants and pro-government forces in a town close to the country’s biggest refinery.

The refinery beside the town of Baiji has changed hands before, reflecting the Iraqi Army’s struggle to hold territory it recaptures after months of clashes.

Fighting on Monday took place on a road used by IS for supply lines leading from Baiji to the nearby town of Siniya to the west, Reuters reported.

Twelve militants, two government soldiers and three members of Shia militias that provide vital support for the army were killed in clashes, a senior regional security official said.

Iraq’s government hoped to gain significant momentum after the army and its militia allies seized back Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit in April after a month-long battle.

But the Iraqi government faced a setback last month when IS captured Ramadi, provincial capital of Anbar Province, the country’s Sunni heartland.

Iraq’s Army, which has largely proven ineffective against the insurgents, relies heavily on Shia militias as well as on US-led airstrikes to slow the momentum of IS.

The group has used beheadings and executions, sometimes videotaped, to strike fear into residents of areas it captures to try to create a self-sustaining caliphate and redraw the map of the Middle East.

The IS territorial advances and ambitions have exacerbated a sectarian conflict in Iraq, which is still struggling to find stability four years after the withdrawal of the last US troops.