The Pentagon said Wednesday that Islamic State militants in Iraq had breached the perimeter of the contested Beiji oil refinery.
Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren said the breach of the oil refinery had happened within the last 48 hours.
“The enemy does have control of some of the refinery now. It’s a tough fight. I don’t know which way it’s going to go," he said.
He said Iraqi Security Forces remained in the contested refinery and were preventing IS militants from taking full control. U.S. and coalition forces have conducted at least five airstrikes in the area around the refinery in the past 24 hours to help push back Islamic State fighters, and Warren said the strikes would continue.
Beiji lies on the road to the strategically important city of Mosul, the largest city that has been overrun by Islamic State forces. When asked whether Iraqi forces could take Mosul without controlling Beiji, Warren replied: “That remains to be seen. Beiji is an avenue of approach into Mosul, so it will be difficult to take Mosul without Bayji, but not impossible."
Warren said the refinery’s location is its biggest significance. The refinery has not worked for some time and is filled with nonoperational equipment.