"BAGHDAD — Sunni militants have hung their black banners on watch towers at Iraq's largest oil refinery, a witness said Thursday, suggesting the vital facility had fallen to the insurgents in control of vast territories across the country's north. A top Iraqi security official, however, said the government still held the facility.
The fighting at Beiji, some 250 kilometers (155 miles) north of Baghdad, comes as Iraq has asked the U.S. to launch airstrikes targeting militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. While U.S. President Barack Obama has not fully ruled out the possibility of launching airstrikes, such action is not imminent, officials said, in part because intelligence agencies have been unable to identify clear targets on the ground.
The Iraqi witness who drove past the Beiji refinery, said militants also manned checkpoints around it. He said a huge fire in one of its tankers was raging at the time. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared reprisals."