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Iraqi Forces Drive IS From Refinery Town

  • VOA News

Iraqi officials said Friday government forces have driven out Islamic State militants from the oil refinery town of Beiji, north of Baghdad.

The news comes a day after the United States' defense chief told a congressional panel that attacks against the insurgents would intensify. And on Friday, the United Nations accused the IS group of committing war crimes in Syria.

The Islamic jihadists had captured Beiji during their blitz across northern and western Iraq earlier this year.

The town of Beiji is located on a highway leading to the key northern city of Mosul, which largely had fallen under the control of IS militants in June.

Airstrikes likely will increase

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said U.S.-led airstrikes against Islamic State militants will intensify in the future as Iraqi ground forces work to become more effective.

Hagel told a U.S. congressional committee Thursday the "tempo and intensity" of the coalition's air campaign against IS will accelerate in tandem with Iraqi forces as they become stronger.

The defense secretary also said that the United States and coalition forces are making progress in the fight against IS militants in Iraq and Syria, but that the American people must prepare for a long struggle.

He said Iraqi, Kurdish and tribal forces supported by U.S.-led airstrikes have stalled and in some cases reversed the Islamic State group's advance. But he added IS remains a serious threat to American interests, U.S. allies and the Middle East.

Hagel and General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified Thursday before the House Armed Services Committee. Dempsey said U.S. officials in the future might consider assigning a modest number of American troops to fight along with Iraqi forces in Mosul and elsewhere.

The testimony came just days after President Barack Obama authorized the U.S. military to deploy up to 1,500 more non-combat troops to Iraq as part of the mission to fight IS militants.

Administration officials said the president will ask Congress for $5.6 billion to help fund the campaign in Iraq. The officials said the request includes $1.6 billion to establish an Iraqi train-and-equip fund.

UN finds evidence of war crimes

United Nations investigators say Islamic State militants are committing war crimes and crimes against humanity on a large scale in areas under the group's control in war-ravaged Syria.

In a report released Friday, a U.N. panel focusing on acts by IS in Syria found the jihadist group's fighters are guilty of massacres, beheadings, torture, sexual enslavement and forced pregnancy. The panel said the group also deploys its fighters close to civilian areas including homes and farms.

The U.N. experts said children have been among the victims.

According to the report, IS commanders have "acted willfully" in perpetrating war crimes and crimes against humanity, noting they are "individually criminally responsible."

The U.N. panel called for those committing the crimes to be brought to justice before the International Criminal Court.

The report is based on interviews with more than 300 people who have fled or still live in Islamic State's stronghold in northeastern Syria. It was conducted by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, a U.N. panel created in 2011 to investigate all alleged violations of international criminal law in Syria.

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