Middle East

Iraqi forces surround oil refinery south of Mosul

Pentagon producer Lucas Tomlinson on Iran's expanding influence in Iraq

 

Iraqi forces say they have surrounded an oil refinery after launching a push to retake the Islamic State-held town of Qayara, south of Mosul.

Special forces spokesman Sabah al-Numan says troops are still fighting a small group of IS militants inside the complex.

Iraqi forces are conducting a series of small-scale operations around Mosul ahead of an eventual push to retake the country's second largest city, which fell to IS in the summer of 2014.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has pledged to drive IS out of the city this year.

Last month Iraqi forces backed by U.S.-led airstrikes retook the Qayara airfield, a transport hub that could prove crucial for an advance on Mosul. Seventy kilometers (40 miles) of territory dotted with militant-held villages lie between Qayara and Mosul.