Sunni militants have seized control of 75 percent of Iraq’s strategic Baiji oil refinery, according to an official.
The fighters are led by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which aims to build an independent Sunni Muslim emirate in the region.
Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is calling for his country’s tribes to fight back against the Sunni militants.
In a televised speech, he said: “The bloody events that are shaking the country are seriously endangering its security and stability. They seek to undermine the unity and national cohesion. This was the inevitable consequence of chronic default that affected the political process.”
Battles rage just one hour’s drive to the north of Baghdad. Iraqi tribesmen in the capital are braced to defeat the militants who have taken major cities in a week-long offensive.
For now, their main target appears to be full control of the Baiji oil refinery, the biggest domestic fuel source in the country.
That would give the militants a stranglehold on energy supply in the north.