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Thu, 19 Jun 2014 10:30:05 +0000
(BAIJI, Iraq) -- A fierce fight for control of a critical refinery 150 miles north of Baghdad could well determine whether Iraqi security forces are capable of defeating the increasingly powerful Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
Militants laid siege on the Baiji refinery overnight Tuesday, firing mortars at the site in an effort to gain access to the administration buildings.
By late Wednesday, the refinery appeared to still be in government hands with foreign security contractors joining Iraqi troops to repel the advance of the ISIS fighters.
Meanwhile, most of the refinery workers have been evacuated to Baghdad.
Losing the Baiji facility would be a terrible blow for a number of reasons, among them, it would confirm that Iraqi forces are no match for the militants, with tens of thousands of soldiers and police already having abandoned their posts in other areas of the country.
Meanwhile, should the ISIS gain control of the refinery, it would create instantaneous shortages of gasoline and electricity, affecting not millions of Iraqis but having international economic repercussions.
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