Islamic State group suicide bombers and fighters attacked the center of Iraq’s northern oil refinery town of Baiji overnight, forcing the army and Shi’ite fighters to pull back, military sources and the local mayor said on Sunday.
The town of Baiji and its refinery – Iraq’s largest – have been a battlefront for more than a year. The hardline Islamists seized the town in June 2014 as they swept through much of northern Iraq towards the capital Baghdad.
Control of Baiji neighborhoods has changed hands many times during the conflict. The latest Islamic State offensive comes after authorities said they controlled nearly the whole town and expected to drive insurgents from the refinery within days.
The militants attacked around 8 pm (1300 EDT) on Saturday with two suicide car bombings. The blasts were followed by fierce clashes that lasted until midnight and drove the army and mainly Shi’ite Hashd Shaabi forces from the center of town, two army colonels said.