ISIS Takes Hold of Iraq's Largest Oil Refinery

Kerry promises 'intense, sustained' US support

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Jun 24, 2014 12:25 AM CDT | Updated Jun 24, 2014 7:52 AM CDT

(Newser) – After more than a week of fighting, ISIS militants say they are now fully in control of Iraq's main oil refinery. The facility at Baiji, some 155 miles north of Baghdad, supplies around a third of the country's refined fuel and the BBC notes that its capture is essential for the rebels to supply energy to the areas they have conquered, including Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city. A rebel spokesman says the facility will be handed over to local Sunni tribes while ISIS fighters continue to push toward Baghdad. More:

  • After talks with Iraqi leaders in Baghdad, John Kerry promised that the US would give Iraqi security forces "intense, sustained" support to allow them to confront ISIS effectively, reports CNN. He stressed, however, that support would only be effective if Iraq's leaders formed a new, more inclusive government to combat the militants now in control of the country's western borders.
  • As he arrived in the north of the country for talks with Kurdish leaders, Kerry restated his call for a "broad-based, inclusive government" that would give more authority to Sunnis and Kurds, the AP reports. The president of Iraq's Kurdish region declared, "We are facing a new reality and a new Iraq," and suggested the region may seek independence.

  • But while Kerry called for unity, sectarian violence is getting worse on both sides of the Sunni-Shiite divide, the New York Times finds. Some 70 Sunni prisoners were killed while being transported south yesterday and while officials initially claimed they had been killed in crossfire after gunmen ambushed the convoy, security sources say the men were massacred by Iraqi police to avenge ISIS' claim to have slaughtered 1,700 captured soldiers. In the north of the country, witnesses say ISIS returned the bodies of 15 Shiite civilians, only to attack the cemetery as families buried them.
  • Iraq has now changed its stance on legal immunity for US troops, the issue that killed talks on leaving a US force behind in the country after withdrawal in 2011, reports the AP. A White House spokesman says the current situation is nothing like 2011. "We're 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," he says.

A burned Iraqi Army armored vehicle sits outside Baiji refinery.
A burned Iraqi Army armored vehicle sits outside Baiji refinery.   (AP Photo)
Militants stand with a captured Iraqi Army Humvee at a checkpoint belonging to the Iraqi Army outside the Baiji refinery, some 155 miles north of Baghdad, Iraq.
Militants stand with a captured Iraqi Army Humvee at a checkpoint belonging to the Iraqi Army outside the Baiji refinery, some 155 miles north of Baghdad, Iraq.   (AP Photo)
A satellite image shows plume of smoke rising from the oil refinery in Baiji, Iraq.
A satellite image shows plume of smoke rising from the oil refinery in Baiji, Iraq.   (AP Photo/U.S. Geological Survey)
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