Iraq denies reports of oil refinery capture

Security contractor says Iraqi situation is 'bleak.'

By Daniel J. Graeber

BAGHDAD, June 18 (UPI) -- An Iraqi military spokesman refuted claims Wednesday that an oil refinery north of the capital Baghdad was in the hands of Islamist militants.

A worker at the refinery in Baiji told The New York Times by telephone militants fighting in support of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria attacked the complex early Wednesday morning. Troops guarding the facility had surrendered and at least 70 of them were taken prisoner, the worker said.


A guard from a battalion patrolling the area told the newspaper by telephone he abandoned his position after ISIS rebels gained the upper hand.

Sunni extremists last week took control over parts of Iraq. The refinery in Baiji can process more than 300,000 barrels of oil and feeds refined petroleum products to 11 of the 19 provinces in Iraq. The Times quotes Iraqi military spokesman Gen. Qassim Atta as saying the area about 130 miles north of Baghdad is "[completely] under control of our security forces."

NPR, which has reporters on the ground in Erbil, the capital of the semiautonomous Kurdish north, reported Wednesday the refinery was attacked heavily by ISIS. The report adds that it was shut down earlier this week when the ISIS siege began.


Security company Olive Group, which has contractors working in the area, said in a statement the "outlook for northern, western and central Iraq is bleak."

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