“Ramping up operations to retake Baiji and Ramadi”

Iraqi forces battled ISIS militants on separate fronts Thursday, ramping up operations to retake Baiji and Ramadi, two of the conflict’s worst flash-points. The Baiji area has seen almost uninterrupted fighting since ISIS swept across Iraq last year, but top officers said Thursday that the Baiji refinery, the country’s largest, was almost secure. There were contradictory statements from the armed forces and the allied paramilitary Popular Mobilization (Hashed al-Shaabi) on whether or not the refinery had been fully retaken. Senior commanders said it had been “completely cleared” but the Joint Operations Command said late Wednesday that the sprawling complex had not yet been extensively swept by Iraqi forces. The refinery itself, which once produced 300,000 barrels per day of refined products meeting half of Iraq’s needs, is said to have been damaged beyond repair and no longer of huge strategic interest”.

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