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Officials: Iraq in 'Full Control' of Key Oil Town


Shi'ite fighters gather to fight against Islamic State militants in al-Fatha, northeast of Baiji, Oct. 18, 2015.

Top U.S. and Iraqi military officials say Iraqi forces have regained "full control" of a key oil refinery town north of Baghdad from Islamic State militants, after more than a year of fighting.

Iraqi General Yahya Rasool did not provide details of the capture of Beiji. But U.S. military spokesman Major Mike Filanowski, speaking Tuesday in Baghdad, said 15,000 Iraqi troops and paramilitaries were in control of the town and driving pockets of enemy fighters from the area.

Footage aired on Iraqi television showed Iraqi troops waving flags from rooftops in the town, which was overrun by IS fighters in June 2014.

Meanwhile, U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Joseph Dunford met with the head of Iraq's Kurdistan region in Irbil as part of a trip aimed at assessing the fight against IS militants and Russia's air campaign in nearby Syria.

Dunford told Massoud Barzani the United States and the Kurds "have a common enemy,"

Kurdish fighters have had some success in pushing Islamic State fighters out of areas in northern Iraq with the backing of airstrikes from the U.S.-led coalition that has been operating for more than a year.

Russian forces have been bombing in Syria for the past three weeks in a campaign they say includes a focus on terrorists, but has been criticized by the U.S. and others as targeting opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Several Iraqi officials had signaled they would welcome Russia's presence in Iraq, but on arrival Tuesday in Baghdad, Dunford said Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi did not make any request for Russian airstrikes.