Islamic State militants set fire to an oil storage tank at Iraq’s largest refinery as the U.S. prepares to escalate the campaign against the extremist group.
Militants fired mortar rounds at the Baiji refinery, 130 miles north of Baghdad, causing a crude storage tank to catch fire and emit a plume of smoke visible from miles away, the police said in a statement read over the phone by an officer.
“The fire could go on for two or three days as there is no civil defense to put it out,” police said in the statement, without indicating how much oil the tank contained. “The situation in the refinery’s perimeter is quiet now.”
Islamic State militants have attacked the refinery several times since June as they seek to secure fuel and funding for a so-called caliphate they proclaimed in areas stretching over the Iraqi-Syrian border. They already control oil producing regions in eastern Syria.
The Baiji refinery has an installed capacity of 310,000 barrels a day and the storage tank that came under attack belongs to a group that typically contain 100,000 barrels each, Saad Al-Obaidi, a protection force personnel at the plant, said by phone. The plant stopped working in June.
The U.S. appointed John R. Allen, a retired Marine general who served in Afghanistan and in Iraq, to coordinate the international effort against the IS, the New York Times said Sept. 11, citing administration officials.