BAGHDAD, June 19 (UPI) -- Who exactly is in control of Iraq's Baiji oil refinery remains unclear.
The Iraqi government claims it regained control early Thursday. Eyewitnesses, however, said that militants still controlled parts of the complex, and that the black jihadi flag was flying inside.
Militants, led by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, began their assault on Wednesday. Concerns over the refinery's security prompted the plants operators to shut it down, and hundreds of workers took shelter in underground bunkers.
On Thursday, Iraqi security forces spokesman Maj. Gen. Qassim Atta and local Baiji officials said that government troops had defeated the militants. Once the militants had retreated, 250 Iraqi workers trapped inside the complex were evacuated around 7:00 a.m. local time.
One of those released workers told the New York Times that at the time of his release, it seemed Iraqi security forces controlled "about 60 percent of the complex."
The Baiji refinery provides refined petroleum products to 11 of the 19 provinces in Iraq. Its indeterminate shutdown or possible seizure by militants would be a devastating blow to Iraqi energy needs.