[QODLink]
Middle East

ISIL rebels control Baiji refinery in Iraq

Sources tell Al Jazeera facility taken by ISIL fighters - reports denied by the Iraqi foreign minister.

Last updated: 24 Jun 2014 11:49
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback

Sunni rebels led by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant have taken control of an important oil refinery and have offered Iraqi troops safe passage if they give up their weapons and leave, according to Al Jazeera sources. 

Sources in Salaheddin said on Tuesday that Sunni rebels had captured the province's Baiji refinery, near the town of Tikrit.

The reports were rejected by the foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, who told Al Jazeera on Tuesday that Iraqi special forces soldiers were in control.

However, sources said that ISIL rebels had offered 460 Iraqi troops still near the refinery safe passage to Erbil if they gave up their weapons. The ISIL would then hand the facility to local Sunni leaders, the sources said.

Baiji refinery is Iraq's largest and produces a third of Iraq's oil output. It has been the scene of a week of fighting between Iraqi forces and Sunni fighters. The government would lose a large slice of the country's oil revenue if the refinery was lost.

The claim comes as US efforts to rally Iraq's leaders into a new unity government appeared to suffer a setback, with the president of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region stating that the country was "facing a new reality" and that the Kurds were "seeking a solution for the crisis that we have witnessed"

Masoud Barzani's comments came after a meeting in Erbil with John Kerry, a day after the US secretary of state met Shia prime minister in Baghdad, Nouri al-Maliki.

Barzani told CNN on Monday: "The time is here for the Kurdistan people to determine their future and the decision of the people is what we are going to uphold."

Kerry had promised "intense and sustained" aid to help Iraq combat the Sunni rebellion during a visit to Baghdad.

However, he said Iraq must "find a leadership that was prepared to be inclusive and share power".

US immunity agreed

The US has promised to send 300 military advisers to help train government forces. On Monday, the US government announced the advisers - mostly special forces - would be granted immunity from prosecution in Iraq.

A White House spokesman said the soldiers were "dealing with an emergency situation - that's the first part - and there is an urgent need for these advisers to be able to do their work on the ground in Iraq".

The US pulled its troops out of Iraq in December 2011 after it failed to gain immunity for a planned residual force of several thousands soldiers.

The US spent an estimated $8 billion on training the Iraq army between 2003 and 2012, according to the US army magazine, the Army Times.

459

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
More than one-quarter of Gaza's population has been displaced, causing a humanitarian crisis.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
Muslim charities claim discrimination after major UK banks began closing their accounts.
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
Featured
People are starving in southern Somalia while relief efforts are blocked by government and rebel fighting.
Some scientists say authorities in favour of nuclear energy tend to deny the negative results of researchers.
Report on child sex abuse in British Asian community highlights issues that may affect the entire nation.
Taliban makes quick gains in Afghanistan with little opposition from Afghan army as US withdrawal begins.
Experts from Minamata, Japan check for signs of mercury illnesses in Ontario, Canada.
join our mailing list