Iraqi forces take part in an operation to retake the Baiji oil refinery. AFP file Photo.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – A military campaign to fully recapture the towns of Baiji and Shargat in Salahaddin province from Islamic State jihadis is already planned, the Salahaddin governor has told reporters.
“The Iraqi army has planned a campaign to recapture all areas of the towns of Baiji and Shargat,” Raid Jabouri, the governor of Salahaddin province, announced during a press conference Wednesday.
According to Jabouri, Shiite militias from the Popular Mobilization Units, also known as Hashd al-Shaabi, as well as tribal fighters are expected to participate in the campaign.
According to a local official, Iraqi security forces have cleared Islamic State militants from strategic positions inside and around the Baiji oil refinery complex, but important areas are yet to be captured.
“Iraqi security forces in cooperation with Shiite fighters of the Hashd al-Shaabi and tribal gunmen, all backed by US-led coalition airstrikes, have been able to remove threats to Baiji oil refinery,” Mohammed Mahmud, the deputy governor of the disputed Baiji, told Rudaw on April 22.
“There are some important positions, including Area 600 and the Albu Javari area, which ISIS could use to start attacking the Baiji oil refinery. I believe Iraqi forces must recapture these areas in order to fully protect the Baiji oil refinery,” Mahmud added.
The Baiji oil refinery is Iraq’s largest, and was partially overtaken by ISIS fighters during heavy fighting this month.
In another development from Iraq’s Anbar province, security officials have reported the death of at least 61 jihadis who were killed during clashes in the provincial capital Ramadi Wednesday.
Fighting between Iraqi joint forces and ISIS militants has intensified in Ramadi in the past two weeks.