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Militants fly flags over Iraq refinery

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BAGHDAD — Sunni militants hung their black banners on watchtowers at Iraq’s largest oil refinery, a witness said today, suggesting an ever-increasing stranglehold on the vital facility by insurgents who have seized vast territories across the country’s north. A top Iraqi security official and a militant fighting for control of the plant said the government still held it.

The fighting at Beiji, some 155 miles north of Baghdad, comes as Iraq has asked the U.S. for airstrikes targeting the 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 in part because intelligence agencies have been unable to identify clear targets on the ground, officials said.

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