After five months Iraqi army controls Baiji refinery, militants on the run
The security forces have entered into the country’s most important oil refinery, the center of a bitter struggle with the Islamic State. Retreating, the jihadists lay landmines. The agriculture minister accuses militants of having stolen more than one million tons of cereals.

Baghdad (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Iraqi security forces (pictured) have entered the Baiji refinery, the most important center for oil extraction in Iraq, halfway between Mosul and Baghdad. It is perhaps the most important Iraqi military conquest since last June when  Islamic state (IS) extremists began to subtract large portions of territory in the North. The Iraqi state television showed pictures of army troops moving into the refinery, after taking the town of Baiji a few days ago.

Saleh Jaber, the police colonel who has been stationed at the  plant, said that "the first Iraqi force, the Mosul Battalion, the vanguard of anti-terrorism, entered the Baiji refinery for the first time in five months". Local sources said that the IS militia has withdrawn to the east, along the Tigris River to seek refuge in the towns and villages still under their control.

Retreating, the militia have scattered landmines and cluster bombs within the refinery, which at the time of closure had a production capacity of 75 thousand barrels of oil per day. The police has initiated the demining procedure, while fighting is still going on in the north-west of the oil complex.

The advance of the army has led to a new wave of displaced civilians, particularly among Sunni Arabs, who have lost their homes and cannot return to their areas of origin. At the same time, they know that they will cannot seek welcome in predominantly Shiite or Kurdish areas, where there have been tensions.

Finally, yesterday the Minister of Agriculture accused the Iraqi Islamic State of embezzling more than 1.1 million tons of grain, taking them from the northern Iraq's deposits . The stocks were stolen and transported to the city under the control of the jihadists in neighboring Syria. The wheat and barley harvested in the northwestern province of Nineveh is now in the Syrian city of Raqqa and Deir al-Zor, Islamist strongholds.

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, most of them farmers, have been driven from their homes and their land since the beginning of the advance of the Islamic State.

 

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