Guards said to be fleeing as al Qaeda-linked group moves beyond Mosul, while AKE ups security risk rating
Al Qaeda-linked militants are advancing on a key Iraqi refinery town after seizing the second-largest city of Mosul earlier this week, according to a report.
Militants from the splinter group Islamic State in Iraq and the Sham (ISIS) have torched a court house and police station in Baiji and have set their sights on the town’s refinery, Reuters reported.
ISIS fighters entered the town on Tuesday evening in dozens of vehicles and released prisoners, according to the report.
The militants sent tribal sheikhs to convince the 250 guards at the facility to move aside, and the news wire reported that the guards have agreed to move to another town.
ISIS earlier this week seized control of Mosul in the north of Iraq, reportedly sending up to 500,000 residents fleeing from the city. The militant group had already been in control of Ramadi and Falluja and have largely been in effective control of much of Nineveh province for some time.
Reuters later reported Iraqi Oil Minister Abdul Kareem Luaibi as saying oil exports from the country, through the south, are safe and at 2.6 million barrels per day.
"All our exports now are from the Basra terminal in the south - and it's a very, very safe area," he said.
On Tuesday UK-based security analyst firm AKE raised its security risk rating for Iraq from 41 to 44, denoting a “highly dangerous business environment”, following the move on Mosul.
AKE Iraq specialist John Drake commented: "If (ISIS) fighters manage to hold on to large parts of Nineveh (province), it will make it easier for them to move funding, weaponry and fighters between different battle fronts.
“The operation could also embolden them to conduct more brazen attacks or even seize further territory elsewhere in the country.
“The areas most at risk of any such attempts include Anbar, Babil, Diyala and Salah ad-Din provinces, as well as areas around the contested city of Kirkuk.
“The militants could even use Mosul as a launch pad for attempting attacks against interests in oil-rich Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) territory, which sits adjacent to Nineveh province.”
AKE has, however, kept its security rating for KRG at 19, denoting “elevated risk”.
"KRG territory is far more secure than the rest of the country but it is certainly not immune from violence,” said Drake.
“Security procedures may be increased in the territory but organisations should review their own measures and contingency plans nonetheless.”