The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group (ISIL, also known as ISIS) launched a coordinated assault on a government-run natural gas plant in Baghdad’s northern outskirts that killed at least 14 people, while a string of other bomb attacks in or close to the capital killed 15 others, Iraqi officials said.
Sunday’s attack on the gas plant started at dawn with a suicide car bomber hitting the facility’s main gate in the town of Taji, about 20 kilometers north of Baghdad. Then several suicide bombers and fighters broke into the plant and clashed with the security forces, an official said, adding that 27 troops were wounded. The armed group, on the other hand, said in an online statement that four fighters with machine guns had killed the guards at the plant which it said the Iraqi army was using as a headquarters. When reinforcements arrived, they set off a parked car bomb before clashing with the security forces and detonating their suicide vests.
A spokesman for Baghdad Operations Command said three of the facility’s gas storages were set alight before security forces were able to bring the situation under control. In a statement to the press, Deputy Oil Minister Hamid Younis said firefighters managed to control and extinguish a fire caused by the explosions. Younis said technicians were examining the damage.
The electricity ministry said two nearby power stations had halted operations due to a cut in gas supplies from the Taji plant. It was not clear how long it would take to restore flow to the power stations, which provided 153 megawatts to the already overstretched national grid before the attack. Video broadcast by Al Hadath TV showed a fireball surging from the plant. An employee who lives nearby said after hearing a powerful blast he saw flames and black smoke coming from inside the facility. Dozens of police and army vehicles rushed to the site where shooting lasted for about an hour, he said.