Mixed reports Tuesday revealed that between 44 and 52 prisoners were killed along with two policemen during an apparent attempted jail-break at a police station in Baquba, 37 miles from Baghdad. According to Shia policemen stationed at the small jail, ISIS militants stormed the jail and tried to free all of its detainees.
Iraq’s chief military spokesman strongly believed the attackers belonged to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Some accuse the policemen of killing the prisoners while they were locked up in their jail cells. Others say it was ISIS that killed the prisoners by lobbing grenades into their jail cells.
On Monday night, ISIS fighters took possession of several neighborhoods in Baquba after hours-long gun battles. The recent hostilities in Baquba show ISIS is inching closer to Baghdad each day. It represents the closest that ISIS has come to Iraq’s capital city thus far.
In Baghdad, the bodies of four young men were founded in the middle of a street on Tuesday morning.
Nechirvan Barzani, the prime minister of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, told the BBC that he would not join forces with the Iraqi army and instead ensure the security of their autonomous zone. He said that his “top priority” was to protect his people. He specifically ruled out using his 75,000 man Peshmerga fighting force to counter ISIS’s blitzkrieg through Iraq.
Barzani was not optimistic about the future of Iraq. “I don’t think it can stay together. As I said: Iraq before Mosul, and Iraq after Mosul. So now we have to sit down and find a formula how to live together, but if we think that Iraq will go back like before Mosul, I don’t think so — it’s almost impossible,” said the Kurdish Prime Minister.
Barzani suggested a Sunni Arab region should be created to counteract sectarian strife between Shias and Sunnis in Iraq: “We have to leave it to Sunni areas to decide, but I think this is the best model for them as well. First, they have to take a decision: what they want exactly. And in our view… the best way is to have a Sunni region, like we have in Kurdistan. There is no trust between Maliki and the Kurds, and even with Shia groups. So, in my view, [a political solution] is difficult.”
Iraq’s biggest oil refinery in the city of Baiji has been officially shut down and its staff evacuated, reports stated Tuesday. Because of ISIS’s presence nearby, refinery officials no longer felt safe maintaining the upkeep of the refinery. “Due to the recent attacks of militants by mortars, the refinery administration decided to evacuate foreign workers for their safety and also to completely shut down production units to avoid extensive damage that could result,” said a chief engineer at the refinery. The engineer estimated that there is roughly a month left of gas, oil, and kerosene supply to meet Iraq’s demand.
Meanwhile, the United States is deploying 275 military personnel to Iraq. Their orders are largely to protect the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. In addition, the U.S. has moved five warships into the Persian Gulf.