Iraqi Defence Minister, Khaled Ubaidi. Photo by Fars News.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region—Iraqi Defense Minister Khaled Ubaidi said Friday the hotly contested oil city of Baiji was “almost fully” controlled by government troops after months of fierce clashes between security forces and militants of the Islamic State, or ISIS, who captured large parts of the town earlier in May.
“Iraqi forces have been able to push militants back and control all the districts in Baiji except for Muhandeseen neighborhood east of the township,” Ubaidi said during an interview with Russia Today, adding that over 1,000 ISIS militants have been killed in the clashes.
On Thursday, Beiji’s mayor, Muhammad Mahmoud, told Rudaw the street fighting continued unabated in the township with sporadic sniper attacks on government forces.
Three car bombs hit a group of government forces in central parts of Baiji on Tuesday killing at least 11 people and wounding another 21, the defense ministry said.
Baiji, some 70 kilometers southwest of Kirkuk city, has the largest oil-producing refinery in Iraq and a large power plant. The refinery has been shut down since ISIS launched its Iraqi offensive more than a year ago.
Government troops supported by the Shiite militia movement known as the Hashd al-Shaabi have been locked in a year-long bloody war in the city trying to drive the militants away from the strategic refinery.
Ubaidi who is in Moscow for talks on military aid for Iraqi forces said Russia was committed to an earlier agreement to help Baghdad in the fight.
Earlier in May, Moscow offered visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi military assistance against the ISIS who have made progress in central Iraq during the summer.