BAGHDAD, Aug. 18 (Xinhua) -- The predominantly Shiite paramilitary Hashd Shaabi forces on Saturday began the withdrawal from the Sunni oil refinery town of Baiji in Iraq's central province of Salahudin.
"Brigades of Hashd Shaabi began the withdrawal from areas in the west of Baiji, some 200 km north of Baghdad, in addition from the nearby oil refinery complex and al-Fat'ha area," a source from Salahudin's provincial Operation Command told Xinhua.
The withdrawal came after a meeting between the command, the Hashd Shaabi and paramilitary Sunni tribal brigades, the source said on condition of anonymity.
The Sunni tribal brigades will temporarily replace the Hashd Shaabi brigades until the Iraqi army forces are deployed in the area, he added.
About two weeks ago, Salahudin's provincial council urged Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, also the commander-in-chief of the Iraqi forces, to pull the Hashd Shaabi out of the provincial cities and their checkpoints on the main roads of the province, because they started to be a "threat to civil peace" in the province.
The key cities of Salahudin Province, including Tikrit, located some 170 km north of the capital Baghdad, were captured by Islamic State (IS) militants in June 2014, before the Iraqi security forces freed the province during major anti-IS offensives.
Meanwhile, Saadi Nasir, deputy commander of the Hashd Shaabi operations in the western part of Anbar, said the artillery of the Hashd Shaabi pounded IS positions in border areas inside neighboring Syria.
"The coordination is high between the security forces and Hashd Shaabi in monitoring any movements of the organization on the Syrian side," Nasir said in a statement.
Previously, the Iraqi air force carried out such preemptive airstrikes against IS militants inside Syria with Iraqi F-16 fighter jets.
On Dec. 9, 2017, Abadi officially declared full liberation of Iraq from IS militants after Iraqi forces recaptured all the areas once seized by the extremist group.