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SAMARRA: Militant Islamic State group suicide bombers killed seven members of Iraq’s security forces in an attack on an Iraqi police and army base on Wednesday in Baiji, north of Baghdad, the interior ministry and a local official said.

“Five Daesh suicide bombers ... wearing explosive belts attacked a police and army base at dawn in the Al-Masafi district,” the town’s mayor Mohammad Mahmoud said. “Seven members of the security forces were killed and six wounded” in the ensuing firefight, he said.

Interior ministry spokesman Brigadier General Saad Maan confirmed the toll and said the “five suicide terrorists” were also killed.

IS captured Baiji, a Sunni Arab town around 200 kilometres from the capital, in June 2014 during a lightning offensive that saw the jihadist group rout security forces and grab swathes of Syria and northern Iraq.

Baiji was the scene of some of the longest-running battles between IS and Iraqi forces.

The town lies at a major crossroads and its recapture by Iraqi security forces was seen as key to preparing the ground for offensives in Anbar province and later Mosul.

The town and its nearby oil refinery, Iraq’s largest, were recaptured in late 2015 with air support from a US-led coalition and a host of tribal groups and militias.

But despite losing Mosul, the capital of its self-declared caliphate, in July, the extremist group has continued to launch attacks in areas retaken by Iraqi forces.

The latest attack comes as Iraqi war planes pound IS positions in preparation for a ground assault on the town of Tal Afar, west of Mosul.

Published in Dawn, August 17th, 2017