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article imageSunni insurgents overrun oilfields in Iraq as US advisers arrive

By Nathan Salant     Jun 26, 2014 in World
Tikrit - Islamic insurgents seized several small oilfields and attacked an airbase in northern Iraq on Wednesday as US military advisers dispatched to keep the Baghdad government in power began to arrive.
Sunni fighters reportedly with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria militant group, an al-Qaida offshoot, took control Wednesday of the Ajeel oil site, 20 miles east of Tikrit, which contains at least three oilfields that produce 28,000 barrels per day, the Reuters news service said.
Local tribes had taken over security at the site after Iraqi police withdrew, but they left after the nearby town of al-Alam was captured by militants, Reuters said.
Ajeel is connected by pipeline to Ceyhan in Turkey and to Iraq's Baiji refinery and industrial complex, which remained under militant attack Wednesday.
State television showed Iraqi troop reinforcements being flown into the grounds of the Baiji refinery, around 200 miles north of Baghdad, Reuters said.
The first 130 of up to 300 US advisers arrived in Iraq on Wednesday to begin setting up an operations center and gathering intelligence for possible future military action, Reuters said.
US President Barack Obama said early this week that he would send special forces, logistics and intelligence teams to assess the next steps in Iraq, which was occupied by tens of thousands of American soldiers until 2011.
Dozens of additional US military personnel were expected to arrive this week to create additional assessment teams, and regular reconnaissance flights over Iraq by manned and unmanned aircraft had started, Reuters said.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, under fire for excluding minority Sunnis from his government for the past eight years, said Tuesday that he was willing to begin forming a new cabinet.
Maliki had been lobbied to do exactly that earlier in the week during a visit by US Secretary of State John Kerry.
ISIL militants, who are said to be trying to establish a Sharia law country over portions of Iraq and Syria, have been capturing cities and towns for the past two weeks, including Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city.
United Nations officials estimate that more than 1,000 Iraqis, primarly civilians, have been killed in the past two weeks, Reuters said.
Tikrit was the hometown of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, who was executed in 2006.
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