Bayji Fertiliser Plant, February 2008
|Governorate||Salah ad Din|
Baiji (Arabic: بيجي; also spelled Bayji) is a city of about 200,000 inhabitants in northern Iraq some 130 miles north of Baghdad, on the main road to Mosul. It is a major industrial centre best known for its oil refinery, the biggest in Iraq and has a large power plant. It also has important weapons and chemical plants.
After the invasion of Kuwait in 1990, dozens of British civilians taken captive in Kuwait were held at the Baiji oil refinery, apparently as human shields. The city was bombed during the 1991 Gulf War and about 80% of the oil refinery was destroyed. It was quickly rebuilt and was back in action only a couple of months after the war's end. However, a lack of maintenance and spare parts resulting from the United Nations trade embargo against Iraq caused the deterioration of the city's oil refinery, which by the late 1990s was in a very poor condition and was seriously polluting the surrounding area.
Iraq War (2003 - 2008)
Baiji was captured with little or no fighting during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. It was briefly thought in late April 2003 that barrels of chemicals found in a storage area near the town contained the nerve agent cyclosarin. Soon afterwards, United States troops discovered an underground oil refinery at Baiji which was initially suspected to be a chemical weapons plant. Both leads eventually proved to be false alarms in the fruitless search for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.
Following the invasion, Baiji subsequently became the scene of a number of insurgent attacks. The town is at one end of the "Sunni Triangle" region which provided the bedrock of Saddam Hussein's support. The sprawling oil refinery and pipelines have been particularly difficult to protect against guerrillas. There have been repeated attacks on the oil pipelines and other elements of the oil infrastructure.
In October 2003, violent riots broke out in the town in protest against the US-backed police force, which was accused of corruption. US troops restored order, wounding four Iraqis in the process, and sacked the town's police chief, replacing him with a local man elected by tribal elders. A US soldier was killed in the town on October 12. US troops subsequently conducted a number of raids in the town to root out guerrillas, who were publicly supported by some of Baiji's clergy. It was also thought that Saddam Hussein might be hiding in Baiji, prompting raids to find him, before he was eventually captured in December 2003 in the nearby village of ad-Dawr.
In April 2009, the Joint Coordination Center (JCC) opened within the JSS. The function of the JCC is to enable the coordination of Iraqi municipal agencies thereby building the Government's capacity to provide essential services to the approximately 250,000 residents of the greater Bayji area.
Bayji is a junction of the national railway network.