الأربعاء , مايو 19 2021

Iraq key refinery 'seized by rebels'

Smoke rises from a oil refinery in Baiji, north of Baghdad. 19 June 2014The refinery at Baiji has been a key objective for the Sunni rebels

Sunni rebels in Iraq say they have fully captured the country’s main oil refinery at Baiji, north of Baghdad.

The refinery had been under siege for 10 days with the militant offensive being repulsed several times.

The complex supplies a third of Iraq’s refined fuel and the battle has already led to petrol rationing.

Insurgents, led by the group Isis, are expanding their control of towns in the north and west and have captured all border crossings to Syria and Jordan.

They are also bearing down on a vital dam near Haditha.

A rebel spokesman said the Baiji refinery, in Salahuddin province, would now be handed over to local tribes to administer.

The spokesman said that the advance towards Baghdad would continue.

The BBC’s Jim Muir in Irbil, northern Iraq, says the capture of the refinery is essential if the rebels are to keep control of the areas they have conquered and to supply the captured city of Mosul with energy.

Earlier, US Secretary of State John Kerry vowed “intense and sustained support” for Iraq after meeting key politicians in the capital, Baghdad.

He said attacks by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) were a threat to Iraq’s existence, and the next days and weeks would be critical.

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