BAIJI , Iraq, June 11 (UPI) -- Islamic militants attacked the city of Baiji, Iraq, freeing prisoners and burning the courthouse Wednesday, before moving toward the country's largest oil refinery.
Members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, an offshoot of al-Qaida, took over Baiji. They advised law enforcement personnel to lay down their arms, then closed in on the nearby oil refinery, offering 250 security members there an opportunity for safe passage if they left their posts.
The Baiji refinery supplies oil throughout Iraq.
Jasim al-Qaisi, a resident of Baiji, said, "Yesterday (Tuesday) at sunset some gunmen contacted the most prominent tribal sheikhs in Baiji via cellphone and told them, 'We are coming to die or control Baiji, so we advise you to ask your sons in the police and army to lay down their weapons and withdraw before evening prayer.'"
The oil refinery attack came a day after 500,000 fled Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, after the militants took control, the International Organization for migration in Iraq reported. Iraqi president Nouri al-Maliki declared a state of emergency and offered weapons and equipment to any resident willing to stay and fight the militants.