BAGHDAD, June 24 (IANS): At least 64 militants were killed as fierce clashes between Iraqi security forces and Sunni militant groups continued in several Iraqi provinces Tuesday, security sources said.
In Salahudin province, the security forces with air support fought back several attacks by dozens of militants who tried to take control of the oil refinery near the city of Baiji, some 200 km north of the capital Baghdad, Lt. Gen. Qassim Atta and security spokesman of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said at a news conference in here.
"Baiji refinery is under full control of the Iraqi security forces," Atta said.
A provincial security source said that air strikes during the day on militants posts around the refinery and the city of Baiji killed up to 17 people.
There were conflicting reports about who were controlling the refinery since late Monday, as provincial police source and media reports said that the militants captured the refinery overnight after an agreement with the troops who were allowed to leave the their posts unarmed peacefully.
But Atta denied such reports and confirmed that the refinery was under the control of the security forces.
Earlier, insurgent groups, including those who are linked to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria(ISIS), an Al Qaeda offshoot, overran the city of Baiji as well as large parts of the Sunni-dominated province of Salahudin, including its capital Tikrit, some 170 km north of Baghdad.
In Iraq's eastern province of Diyala, battles continued in and around the city of Udheim, some 60 km north of the provincial capital city of Baquba, as the troops carried out several attacks on the Sunni militants posts from three directions on the city, killing 21 militants, Atta said.
In Anbar province, Atta said the security forces attacked militant groups in the town of Saqlawiyah, just north of the militant-seized city of Fallujah, some 50 km west of Baghdad, killing 24 gunmen and destroying six of their vehicles.
Meanwhile, Atta confirmed that the border guards and other security forces were still seizing the border crossing points of Triebil with Jordan and al-Walid crossing point with Syria after they repelled attacks by ISIS militant groups. He said that the two border crossing points were being under control of the militants.
On Friday, the militants took control of the border crossing point with Syria near the city of al-Qaim, some 330 km west of Baghdad, and also seized several posts from border guards after clashing with security forces.