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Militants hit main Iraq refinery at Baiji as PM sacks officers

Published on Jun 18, 2014 6:41 PM
 
A general view of Baiji oil refinery, north of Baghdad in this Jan 21, 2009, file photo. Militants pressing a major offensive in Iraq attacked the country's biggest oil refinery on Wednesday, as the Premier scrambled to regain the initiative by sacking security commanders and reaching out to political rivals. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

KIRKUK, Iraq (AFP) - Militants pressing a major offensive in Iraq attacked the country's biggest oil refinery on Wednesday, as the Premier scrambled to regain the initiative by sacking security commanders and reaching out to political rivals.

The United States, which is mulling air strikes against the insurgents, said it believed Baghdad's security forces were rallying against the assault, while Iran pledged not to let Shi'ite shrines in Iraq fall to the Sunni Arab militants leading the charge.

Washington has nevertheless deployed some 275 military personnel to protect its embassy in Baghdad, the first time it has publicly bolstered the mission's security, while other countries have also sought to evacuate nationals and pull diplomats out.

The crisis, which has displaced hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, threatens to carve up the country while the assault on the Baiji oil refinery early Wednesday will likely further spook international oil markets.

 
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