Militants lay siege to Iraq's largest oil refinery

By The Associated Press | Posted - Jun. 18, 2014 at 3:40 a.m.



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BAGHDAD (AP) — A top security official says Sunni extremists who have been seizing territory and overrunning towns in Iraq have launched a siege on the country's largest oil refinery.

The facility processes much of Iraq's domestic oil and gas supplies.

The official said fighters of the al-Qaida-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant -- or ISIL - began their attack on the Beiji (BAY'-zhee) refinery, about 155 miles north of Baghdad last night. The attack continued into the morning, with fighters targeting it with mortar shells. A small fire started on the facility's periphery.

The Beiji refinery accounts for about a quarter of the country's entire refining capacity — all of which goes toward domestic consumption for things like gasoline, cooking oil and fuel for power stations. Any lengthy outage risks long lines at the gas pump and electricity shortages.

Meanwhile, in the city of Tal Afar, fighting rages between government troops and ISIL fighters who captured the city on Monday. That's according to a chief military spokesman.

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The Associated Press

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