Iraqi army retake military airbase outside Tal Afar

Baghdad, Dec 22 (IANS) The Iraqi army retook control of a military airbase outside the town of Tal Afar in the province of Nineveh in northern Iraq, as they continued to fight the Islamic State (IS) militants, media reported Sunday.

The Iraqi Special Operations Forces, known as the "Golden Division", carried out an attack on the airbase, Xinhua reported, citing the state-run Iraqiya channel.

The troops seized the airbase after dozens of IS militants fled their positions, according to the report.

The offensive apparently was part of a larger operation to free the town of Tal Afar, which is home to a mixed population, comprising mainly Shia and Sunni Turkomans, apart from Kurds and other ethnic and religious minorities.

The attack came as Kurdish security forces, known as Peshmerga, were making progress against the IS militants in northern Iraq and had moved to free the town of Sinjar, which is home to the Yazidi minority.

The success of the Iraqi security forces in the Nineveh province came amid setback in the Salahudin province, where the IS militants managed to recapture the oil refinery town of Baiji and imposed a siege on the adjacent oil refinery, according to a source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

However, the security forces are preparing for a major counter-attack soon to retake control of the town and to break the siege on the refinery, the source said.

The security situation in Iraq began to drastically deteriorate since June 10, when bloody clashes broke out between the Iraqi security forces and the IS.

The security forces withdrew from their bases following the June 10 blitzkrieg of the Sunni militant groups, including the IS, in which they seized several territories in the predominantly Sunni provinces.

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Updated Date: Dec 22, 2014 02:45:07 IST