The objective of this study was to investigate the biodegradation of a mixture of pollutants commonly found in coke oven wastewater such as phenol, cresol, xylenol, quinoline, indole and cyanide under anaerobic and anoxic conditions. It was found that xylenol was highly recalcitrant under anaerobic and anoxic conditions. In presence of free cyanide (>2.5. mg/L), the organic compounds (100. mg/L) were degraded before the biodegradation of free cyanide under both the conditions. However, the biodegradation of pollutants prolonged under anaerobic conditions compared to anoxic conditions. All the organics, especially xylenol and indole, inhibited the degradation of cyanide. Experimental results highlighted the detrimental effects of the combined toxic influence of cyanide and organics on the anaerobic and anoxic microbes treating coking wastewater. The proposed mathematical model was able to simulate the biodegradation of organic compounds along with cyanide satisfactorily. © 2014 Elsevier B.V.