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Sunni militants attack oil plant in northern Iraq

Sunni militants are expanding their offensive in Iraq, along the border with Syria. They're surrounding the nation's largest oil refinery and attempting to control it.

The militants took control of Qaim and other towns in western areas bordering Syria. Government forces are stepping up air raids to stop the militants' advance towards the capital Baghdad.

The militants have also surrounded the Beiji oil refinery, and have made numerous attempts to capture it.
Some media are reporting that the militants have already seized the plant.

But Iraqi state-run TV says that government troops are defending the facility.
A commander of the government forces was quoted as saying that the refinery will resume operations within a few days.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry met Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani in the Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq on Tuesday. Kerry also met with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Baghdad the previous day.

Kerry is likely to have called on the Kurdish leader to overcome sectarian and ethnic divides and participate in building an unity government.

Jun. 24, 2014 - Updated 12:21 UTC