Baghdad, (IANS) The Islamic State (IS) militants killed at least nine soldiers in overnight attacks against the Iraqi security forces in the town of Baiji near the country’s largest oil refinery in Salahudin province, a security source said on Sunday.
Two suicide bombers on Saturday night drove their explosives-laden cars into the positions of the security forces and allied militias, known as Hashd Shaabi (popular mobilisation), in Baiji, some 200 km north of Baghdad, Xinhua quoted the source as saying.
After several hours of heavy clashes, the IS militants seized the central part of the town, leaving at least nine soldiers killed, he added.
Sporadic clashes continued on Sunday morning, as reinforcement troops arrived at the scene to begin a counter-attack to regain control of the town.
The security forces and allied militias, backed by Iraqi and US-led coalition aircraft, have cleared most of the town since Tuesday after days of heavy clashes with the IS militants, but the two sides have been involved in fierce battles inside the town.
Meanwhile, heavy clashes continued in Iraq’s largest oil refinery as the security forces were trying to drive IS militants out of it.
Since March 2, security forces and thousands of allied Shia and Sunni militias have been involved in Iraq’s biggest offensive in order to recapture from IS militants the northern part of Salahudin province.
The security situation in Iraq has drastically deteriorated since June 2014, when bloody clashes broke out between Iraqi security forces and hundreds of militants from the IS.
The militants took control of the country’s northern city of Mosul and later seized swathes of territories after Iraqi security forces abandoned their posts in Nineveh and other predominantly Sunni provinces.