At around 01:00 on 25 February, IS militants using heavy weapons attacked a PMF position in the vicinity of the Baiji Oil Refinery in Salah ad Din. The attack was reportedly conducted from stand-off distances. Elements of the 31st PMF Brigade returned fire, with clashes reportedly continuing for three hours. 1-3 insurgents were reportedly killed and one PMF member was wounded according to the most credible reporting. No damage was reported at the facility itself. Reporting from some sources was assessed to have embellished this stand-off style attack as a thwarted attempt to infiltrate the facility.
Areas accessible to IS staging grounds along the Makhoul Mountains were very active in recent weeks. Significant security responses included multiple operations and airstrikes culminating with the killing of a local IS commandercalled the “Makhoul Wolf” on 21 February. However, IS continues to demonstrate its capability to threaten areas along the Baiji – Shirqat corridor for the time being. IS quickly retaliated by conducting an attack against a village south of Shirqat on 22 February, killing one. The 25 February attack selected the more symbolic Baiji Oil Refinery as part of assessed IS intent to gain a propaganda victory disproportionate to the moderate impact of this long-range engagement. In some respects, local security officials played into their hands by praising the disruption of a claimed infiltration attempt.