Militants make renewed push for main Iraq refinery
workers walking at Iraq's largest refinery complex in Baiji, some 200 kilometers north of Baghdad - AFP

BAGHDAD:  Militants have launched a renewed push to seize Iraq’s main oil refinery north of Baghdad, battling security forces backed by air support, a police officer and witnesses said on Sunday.

The fighting, in which militants attacked the Baiji refinery from three sides, broke out on Saturday evening and continued into the next day, the sources said.

Militants have repeatedly sought to overrun the refinery, which once accounted for some 50 percent of Iraq’s supplies of refined oil products.

While they have previously managed to enter the refinery compound, security forces were able to push them back.

Jihadist-led militants launched a major offensive in June, overrunning large areas of five provinces and sweeping security forces aside.

The unrest has hit northern oil production and shipments, but Iraq’s massive southern fields and export terminals remain unaffected.

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