National Security

Islamic State Captures ‘Large Portions’ of Critical Oil Refinery in Iraq

Iraq's largest oil refinery in the northern town of Baiji, Iraq. / AP

Iraqi forces defending the country’s largest oil refinery are surrounded and running low on supplies, calling to question how long they can remain in control of the critical site.

A Reuters report Monday provided a grim outlook on the war against the Islamic State. The Baiji refinery has been a fiercely fought over asset since IS swept through the northern half of the country.

"We can hear Daesh (IS) fighters shouting and threatening to behead anyone they catch. We are running short of ammunition, food and drinking water. We eat only one meal a day. We tear our uniforms to bandage other soldiers' and policemen's wounds," one policeman at the refinery said.

After months of fending off attacks on the Baiji compound, Iraqi forces find themselves in a similar situation with insurgents. Pushed out of Tikrit recently, the IS fighters have turned their focus back on the oil refinery. They have successfully cut off all supply routs to the Iraqi forces in the compound

Iraqi forces were only able to maintain complete control over the compound for a couple of weeks before militants regained some ground. Currently, Khazaal Hummadi, a provincial council member, said Iraqi forces are in control of half of the compound. This is especially problematic because IS, publishing disturbing photos from inside the refinery on social media, controls so much of the facility that planes will not be able to attack them without also damaging the refinery.

"It’s too much for us to handle alone," a special forces commander said.

The Baiji refinery, now closed, produced up to a third of all of Iraq’s domestic fuel consumption.