Iraqi Forces Retake Saddam’s Palace in Salahuddin from ISIS
Iraqi forces backed up by Shi’ite militia fighters continued their push on Saturday (October 17) into the northern part of the Sunni Muslim province of Salahuddin, on the fourth day of a major offensive aimed at removing ISIS militants from the province.
Counter-terrorism forces and volunteer militia fighters recaptured the presidential complex of former President Saddam Hussein in Makhoul Mountain, just north of the key oil town of Baiji.
“Today we have achieved a big victory represented by the recapture and of the presidential palaces complex in Makhoul Mountain. We also took full control of this important and strategic mountain and we cut the supply route linking the Ziwiya and al-Fatha areas which has been considered one of the enemy’s main supply routes to send fighters and personnel to Baiji,” said leader of the powerful Shi’ite militia of Badr Brigade.
Footage shows Iraqi counter-terrorism forces of fighters of the Shi’ite Hashid Shaabi (the Popular Mobilization) deployed in and around the buildings of the presidential site. The video also showed a tunnel dug by the militants inside one of the buildings of the site to funnel weapons and fighters to and from the area.
Hadi al-Amiri, has been omnipresent on the Baiji frontlines. He voiced dissatisfaction with US coalition airstrikes.
“Relying on the US-led international coalition is like believing in a mirage. If these operations are being launched in Ramadi, it would not have taken more than three or four days, Therefore, I tell them (the government) that anyone who thinks that Ramadi can be liberated without the Hashid Shaabi is mistaken and days will prove that,” Amiri said.
The leader said government forces and militias are in full control of the vast energy complex and are now cleaning up some pockets of resistance.
Badr Brigade say they also managed to seize most parts of the town of Baiji after launching an attack on Wednesday (October 14), by defusing booby traps and hunting down holdout jihadists.
Baiji lies at a crossroads between several frontlines, and control of the area is seen as the key to progress in other regions, including Anbar province where forces were also closing in on ISIS strongholds.
The refinery, a focal point in efforts to contain ISIS in OPEC oil producer Iraq, has changed hands several times since the ultra-hardline Sunni militants swept through northern Iraq last year.
The refinery once produced 300,000 barrels per day of refined products meeting half of Iraq’s needs and is said to have been damaged beyond repair and to no longer be of huge strategic interest.
ISIS insurgents suffered a major defeat in April when Iraqi troops and Shi’ite paramilitaries routed them from the city of Tikrit.
But the insurgents struck back with gains in Baiji and the western province of Anbar, the other major battleground in the campaign against ISIS.