Iraqi airstrikes target Islamic militants

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Iraqi security forces celebrate after clashes with followers of Shiite cleric Mahmoud al-Sarkhi, in front of his home in the Shiite holy city of Karbala, 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, July 2, 2014. (AP Photo/Ahmed al-Husseini)

Iraqi security forces celebrate after clashes with followers of Shiite cleric Mahmoud al-Sarkhi, in front of his home in the Shiite holy city of Karbala, 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, July 2, 2014. (AP Photo/Ahmed al-Husseini)

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BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraqi government airstrikes on Friday targeted Islamic militants trying to capture the country’s largest oil refinery, reportedly killing as many as 30 insurgents, authorities said.

Fighters from the Islamic State extremist group, who have overrun much of northern and western Iraq, have been trying for weeks to capture the Beiji facility, located some 250 kilometers (155 miles) north of Baghdad. The group appeared on the verge of taking the refinery last month, but military troops managed to hold on and have since received reinforcements to help bolster their defenses.

A government plane targeted around eight vehicles attacking government forces at the facility north of Baghdad early Friday morning, said Sabah al-Nuaman, the spokesman for Iraq’s counterterrorism services. He said up to 30 militants were killed.

Al-Nuaman also said a helicopter gunship hit a house in the town of Qaim near the Syrian border where a gathering of the Islamic State group’s local leaders was taking place. He said there were several casualties, but did not have a concrete figure.

The militants took control of Qaim, which controls a border crossing with Syria, last month during their blitz across Iraq, and now control a vast stretch of territory straddling the two countries.

Associated Press

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