Middle East

Iraq conflict: IS suicide bombers hit Taji gas plant

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Media captionFootage from the scene showed a huge fireball rising above the gas plant

The Islamic State (IS) group has staged a suicide attack on a gas factory near Baghdad in which 14 people were killed and 20 wounded, Iraqi officials say.

The assault began when three car bombs exploded at the gate of the plant in Taji, north of the capital.

Six men wearing explosive belts rushed in and blew up gas tanks, before security forces won back the facility.

IS, which controls large parts of western and northern Iraq, has stepped up attacks in Baghdad recently.

It has claimed the latest incident, which began after dawn at the Taji facility, 20km (12 miles) north of Baghdad.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The attacks on the state-run gas plant in Taji took place early on Sunday

A fireball shot up into the air as the three gas tanks were blown up by the militants.

Those killed in the blasts are reported to include workers as well as members of the security forces.

'A key switch in strategy'- Sebastian Usher, World Service Middle East editor

Sunday's attack is another reminder of the threat IS still poses in Iraq, despite losing considerable territory in recent months. Just last week, the group mounted a series of suicide bombings in Baghdad that killed more than 90 people.

There have been more such attacks by IS already this year in Iraq than in all of 2015 - a clear switch in strategy to make up for battlefield defeats. In Syria, the past two days have seen a big offensive against the remaining government redoubts in the eastern city of Deir al-Zour, which straddles key routes to Raqqa and Iraq.

The group is even threatening Palmyra again, the ancient city it lost earlier this year. IS clearly wants to show that it can recover momentum even as it loses ground and its finances suffer.

The attack comes four days after car bomb attacks by IS killed 93 people in Baghdad on Wednesday - the deadliest day of violence in the capital so far this year,

Meanwhile, Iraq remains in political crisis.

Divisions among political factions has prevented the formation of a new cabinet. The deadlock has raised concerns about the government's ability to fight IS.

Recent IS attacks

Image copyright Reuters

11 May 2016: Car bombs in Baghdad kill 93 people, including 64 in market in Shia district of Sadr City

1 May 2016: Two car bombs kill at least 33 people in southern city of Samawa

26 March 2016: Suicide attack targets football match in central city of Iskandariya, killing at least 32

6 March 2016: Fuel tanker blown up at checkpoint near central city of Hilla, killing 47

28 February 2016: Twin suicide bomb attacks hit market in Sadr City, killing 70