Iraqi forces free oil refinery town from IS militants

BAGHDAD, Oct. 20 (Xinhua) -- Iraqi security forces on Tuesday recaptured the oil refinery town of Baiji from Islamic State (IS) militants in the north central province of Salahudin, a provincial security source told Xinhua. Government troops and allied Shiite and Sunni paramilitary units, known as Hashd Shaabi, drove out IS militants from Baiji, a town located some 200 km north of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, after days of fierce battles, the source said on condition of anonymity. This came after the earlier capture of Iraq's largest oil refinery near Baiji and the town of Seiniyah. Sporadic clashes continued as government forces try to regain control of three villages north of Baiji amid sniper fire, the source said, adding that the troops and explosive experts have started defusing roadside bombs and combing through booby-trapped buildings in central Baiji. Also on Tuesday, thousands of government troops and Hashd Shaabi units, with Iraqi and international air cover, pressed on toward Fat'ha, an area some 40 km north of Baiji, and toward the IS-held town of Hawijah in the southwestern part of the oil-rich Kirkuk province, the source added. Late on Saturday, government troops seized several villages west of Tigris River, amid efforts to push on to the IS stronghold of Shirqat, 280 km north of Baghdad, the source said. Salahudin is a predominantly Sunni province. Its capital, Tikrit, some 170 km north of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, is the hometown of former President Saddam Hussein.