Islamic State (IS) militants launched fresh attacks on May 7 against government troops who are defending Iraq’s largest oil refinery.
Iraqi military officials say government forces were facing one of their toughest battles after the IS militants launched “a fierce attack at dawn” on the Baiji refinery about 200 kilometers north of Baghdad.
The vast refinery complex has been besieged by IS fighters for months after the group seized large swathes of territory across northern and western Iraq during the summer of 2014.
The siege was broken in late 2014, but IS fighters attacked again in recent weeks and some managed to establish positions inside the refinery compound.
Iraqi Army officials say those who broke inside the refinery have taken up positions in buildings.
The Iraqi officials described the IS fighters now inside the Baiji compound as "suicide fighters who will not leave until they have been killed."
Meanwhile, the U.S.-led military coalition said May 7 it launched 14 air strikes in Iraq and four in Syria against Islamic State militants since early on May 6.
It said the strikes in Iraq involved attack, bomber, fighter and drone aircraft and were near Baiji, Al Huwayjah, Fallujah, Kirkuk, Mosul, Sinjar and Tal Afar.