Iraq Isis Crisis: Sunni Islamists Claim Control of Baiji Oil Refinery Again

Vasudevan Sridharan — International Business Times June 24, 2014

A satellite image shows a plume of smoke rising from Iraq's largest oil refinery. Click to enlarge

A satellite image shows a plume of smoke rising from Iraq’s largest oil refinery. Click to enlarge

The Sunni Islamist rebels fighting against the Shiite Iraqi administration has yet again claimed complete control of the key oil refinery in Baiji in the northern province of Salahuddin.

Iraqi security forces have been battling the rebels who had seized the oil facility earlier.

The Baiji plant supplies nearly a third of Iraq’s fuel output and almost all of its production is directed towards domestic consumption.

Taking control of the facility would be vital for the militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) who need energy resources to fuel their fighting.

The refinery is set to be controlled by locals rather than the Baghdad administration as the rebels have handed over the running of the facility to the tribesmen.

Having seized control of frontier crossings with Syria and Jordan, the rebels have vowed to march towards the capital Baghdad.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry has promised “intense and sustained” support to the Iraqi administration.

Speaking at the US embassy in Baghdad, he said: “The support will be intense, sustained, and if Iraq’s leaders take the steps needed to bring the country together it will be effective.”

“Iraq faces an existential threat and Iraq’s leaders have to beat that threat with the incredible urgency that it demands. The very future of Iraq depends on choices that will be made in the next days and weeks.”

“It is essential that Iraq’s leaders form a genuinely inclusive government as rapidly as possible.”

Kerry also held talks with several key Shiite and Sunni figures.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki acknowledged, after talks with Kerry, that the ongoing crisis poses a serious threat to the entire region as well as to global peace.

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