ISIS takes control of Bayji, Tikrit in lightning southward advance

Iraqi and Syrian towns and cities seized by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham. Map created by The Long War Journal. Click to view larger map.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham continues its lightning advance southward after seizing control of Mosul, the country’s second largest city, and the province of Ninewa and other areas of Salahaddin and Kirkuk provinces yesterday. ISIS has now captured the Salahaddin cities of Bayji, which has Iraq’s largest oil refinery, and Tikrit, the provincial capital.

ISIS units traveling in a convoy of more than 60 vehicles advanced into Bayji last night, and torched several government buildings, court houses, and police headquarters, according to ITAR-TASS and Reuters. ISIS fighters are said to have surrounded the refinery and sent a delegation to security forces who are holding out in the complex.

According to Reuters, the 250 security personnel agreed to withdraw from the refinery complex, the largest in Iraq.

After seizing Bayji, ISIS fighters moved to take control of Tikrit, the provincial capital and home town of former dictator Saddam Hussein.

Tikrit is now said to be effectively under ISIS control. According to Samarra Al-Gharbiyah News, the provincial government center in Tikrit was overrun by ISIS fighters and Governor Ahmad Abdallah is reported to have been captured.

“All of Tikrit is in the hands of the militants,” a police colonel told AFP.

ISIS also freed hundreds of prisoners being held in the city. More than 2,500 prisoners, many thought to be hardened jihadists, were also reportedly freed yesterday when ISIS took control of Mosul.

In addition to taking control of Ninewa province yesterday, the ISIS captured several areas outside of Kirkuk and in Salahaddin province. [See LWJ report, ISIS seizes more towns in northern and central Iraq.]

ISIS’ blitzkrieg from Mosul to Tikrit covered nearly 250 miles in the span of several days. The majority of the Iraqi security forces in the way of the ISIS either abandoned their posts and weapons and equipment, or melted away after brief skirmishes.

The scope of the operation, including the territory covered, indicates that tens of thousands of ISIS fighters participated in the recent fighting.

The recent ISIS advances in northern and central Iraq effectively put the terror group in control of nearly a third of the country. The ISIS already controls most of the large western province of Anbar, save the provincial capital of Ramadi and some small pockets.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

Tags: ,


  • m3fd2002 says:

    Poof! There goes the 4th Division. We are probably witnessing the beginning of the split-up of Iraq (Sunni,Shia,Kurd). Look for the Kurds to consolidate Kirkuk in short order. The only true friends we have here are the Kurds. We should support these people economically and militarily (Weapons only). The battle for Baghdad might develop soon. Bill, what’s the word on who are supporting the ISIS? Is it Saudi/Qatari elements, Assad, Ergodan, etc.? Like I have stated in previous posts, its like three-dimensional chess. Thanks for the updates.

  • Will Fenwick says:

    It looks like all of western Iraq is on the brink of collapse. With some 3000 or so prisoners having been freed, ISIS has made a net gain to its ranks through the operation. I’d imagine that it has returned some two battalions worth of fighters to its ranks. It will be interesting to see whether or not ISIS will keep its newly acquired material in the Iraqi theater to sustain its advance or pull much of it back into Syria in an attempt to consolidate.

  • A few of my images from when I was an embedded reporter in Bayji, in 2007:
    Disappointing to say the least.

  • Knighthawk says:

    Things are sure moving quick. “convoy of more than 60 vehicles” – I would think that would make them easier to locate\track and target by the IA, no?
    Was just reading that apparently Muqtada al-Sadr has crawled out the woodwork and semi retirement offering to form ‘peace units’ to defend holy places. Why do I doubt his motives are less then altruistic.

  • Chavez says:

    One way or another, isn’t Iraq destined to break up into Kurdish, Sunni, and Shia portions?
    That was probably inevitable, since “Iraq” was always an artificial construct (like “Yugoslavia”); and internal tensions could only be held in check by a strongman.

  • Michael McDowell says:

    Who said anything about 10s of 1000s of ISIS fighters ???
    Around 2000 would be nearer the reality, no more were required to roll over 3 ( allegedly 3 ) divisions of the Iraqi ‘army’ .

  • Sunny says:

    CNN reports they got tons of weapons and millions of dollars from the banks. Baghdadi has become the 1st Jihadist Warlord in the middle east in modern times. The question is does he have the administrative skills to run his empire. I think it is just a matter of time before the Americans start bombing the shit out of ISIS. They surely cannot allow a caliphate in the very land they went to war with in their battle against militant Islam.

  • Sunny says:

    Guardian reports that 2 Iraqi divisions of 30,000 soldiers ran away from Mosul after an assault by 800 fighters – staggering cowardice, beyond pathetic. At this rate ISIS will take Baghdad with 10,000 fighters. The fact that they despite having air power could not or did not even try to bomb the ISIS convoy is going beyond mind boggling incompetence into conspiratorial territory.

  • DJ Elliott says:

    I’m begining to suspect the KRG has made a deal with ISIS. 2nd and 3rd IA Divs in Ninawa plus 4th IA Division in Salahadin are where most of the Kurds still in the IA serve. Bayji has a Bde of the 4th and the route to Tikrit [4th’s HQ] would have run thru 2 more IA Bdes.
    60 vehicles is only bn strength. To take Tikrit with a bn strength flying column means the IA abandoned the field completely – all components.
    I’m seeing reports of KRG troops taking over Kirkuk –
    This could be the partition of Iraq in progress or
    it could be ISIS overextending itself in the open on the road to Baghdad.
    Draw Play?

  • Paul says:

    Who is funding ISIS? Saudi.Gulf states or Syria?

  • Alex says:

    What do you make of reports that the Ninevah governor has requested assistanec from the Peshmerga? Does he even have the authority to make that request?

  • CP says:

    If we tried….to just bring “Chaos to Iraq”… we could NOT have done a better job!!
    It’s like a Bad Movie and Bad Dream…..
    The Oxy-Morons of US-Intelligence
    The Wasted Lives
    the Wasted Limbs
    The Wasted Minds
    The Waste Land
    The M.E. Chaos
    The Rise and Rising of AQ
    Saddam…. Is looking Really Good, almost Angelical
    And we look…….Sad… Really Sad. Almost Juvenile!!!

  • Victor says:

    What a surprise! The 30,000 ISF soldiers of the 2nd and 4th divisions that were so efficient at manning checkpoints in order to extort civilians out of their hard-earned money had little appetite for a fight; after all, money has no utility in a grave. The silver lining is that the $480 million in Iraqi dinars that was in the Mosul branch of the central bank was almost certainly long gone before ISIS got to it.

  • lewy14 says:

    Bill – love the maps.
    Do an overlay of the oil fields and oil pipelines with the ISIS held territory. It seems the Kurds are choked off; they have their fields still but the pipelines run through ISIS held territory. The two biggest fields in Iraq, with the vast majority of the oil, are in the south.
    The pipelines also run south (one into the gulf) and the Iraqi government can get their oil to market and protect the oil companies who are developing those big fields. Rump Shia Iraq seems like a viable state. They will fight to keep the Baghdad / Basra corridor open and not much more.

  • Iraq has been using Iraqi territory to funnel IRGC, Hezbollah, supplies, weapons, etc to Syria for years. I think ISIS is taking a bold move to shut down that supply train and further deteriorate Iraq’s stability.
    If they are successful everything Iran, Assad, and Russia have been trying to build up and/or protect will fall apart. I think if we don’t have our troops on the ground soon we’ll see uniformed IRGC headed in soon and Russia will pivot from the upper Balkans and become very invested in Iraq. Just saying……

  • jayc says:

    Let’s not forget that this might be the resurgence of the Baath party. Even though ISIS has a religious bent, they will need to consolidate their goals politically, also. I wonder if Al-Douri is behind this?

  • Veteran says:

    Muqtada al Sadr should have been killed in 04 by the 1 st cav
    ( thanks bush admin) we gave the Iranians the oil. And Cheney a blank check. Stupid , so we can’t complain when our fuel cot is high and our taxed dollars got the royal …!
    Let Iraq fall to dismay , I wouldn’t send another American even if it would bring back Shinseki!

  • Mike E says:

    It’s like a Bad Movie and Bad Dream…..
    The Oxy-Morons of US-Intelligence
    The Wasted Lives
    the Wasted Limbs
    The Wasted Minds
    The Waste Land
    The M.E. Chaos
    The Rise and Rising of AQ
    The Obama administrations non-interventionist approach with respect to ISIL in Syria and his failure to support the legitimate uprising early on brought us the Chaos you describe, and it cost no lives. Isolationism, smart power and leading from behind is a disaster.
    If we had not liberated Iraq from Saddam Iraq would have become another Syria, and it may still go that way due to our recent inaction.

  • DJ Elliott says:

    You are forgeting the new Kurdish pipeline.
    That is entirely in Kurdish controled territory.
    And ISIS said at the start they were not attacking the KRG…
    However, the only way a deal like that would work would be if the Turks were on board with KRG going independent.
    I’m watching the Turk reaction…

  • DJ Elliott says:

    Alex: He has no such authority. Malaki would have to make the request.

  • Arjuna says:

    Message to the Iraqi Army:
    Dang, that’s one speedy surrender, guys. At least you had your tracksuits handy.
    (“In Mosul, Iraqi soldiers had been reported donning tracksuits and running away…”)
    I guess you didn’t like the “new” rules?
    Now you want the cavalry to come save you??
    Tsk, tsk. You have to fight first.

  • Eric Sykes says:

    As having been responsible for the Salahaddin province of Iraq from 2006 – 2007 during the height of sectarian and coalition violence as an intel soldier assigned to JSOC and bearing in mind the many nights and days of tireless work pacifying AQ trying to prevent the rise of the “Islamic caliphate” this news is utterly demoralizing, just plain depressing.

  • travisb says:

    if ISIS takes Baghdad can’t we expect Iran to take Basra? I can’t imagine Iran standing by and just letting Basra fall into the hands of the ISIS.
    Also by taking Eastern Iraq the ISIS open up another front with Iran. I’m not sure that would be in ISIS best interest.

  • Bill Baar says:

    I’m not worred about ISIS taking Bagdhad or Basra. I am worried a huge opportunity to take out a lot of terrorists exposed and on the go outside their holes is going to be foresaken. @Bill Roggio.. can this be a battle of the bulge?

  • sundoesntrise says:

    I do not think anybody has to worry about ISIS taking over Basra. With all due respect that seems impossible. The remaining Iraqi security forces, combined with brutal Shia militias and a population in arms defending themselves would just be way too much for ISIS to overcome.

  • travisb says:

    Reread what i said guys,
    I don’t think ISIS will take Basra I think Iran will.

  • عکس says:

    Let’s not forget that this might be the resurgence of the Baath party. Even though ISIS has a religious bent, they will need to consolidate their goals politically, also. I wonder if Al-Douri is behind this?

  • m3fd2002 says:

    I don’t believe Iran will move to take Basra. That would be an overt invasion of a recognized sovereign state. International reaction would be overwhelming. Frankly, I believe that even the Iranian Pasdaran and Qods leadership are very cautious about any overt intervention in Iraq .In addition, the Shia Arabs of Iraq don’t have any love lost regarding the Iranians. The Iranians have their hands full in Syria. Syria is turning into a quagmire for them and Hezbollah. If Hizbollah withdraws combat units from Syria, Assad falls.


Islamic state



Al shabaab

Boko Haram