The Pentagon says Islamic State militants in Iraq have breached the perimeter of the contested Beiji oil refinery.
Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren says the breach of the oil refinery 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 remain in the contested refinery and, as of now, are preventing Islamic State 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.
Beiji lies on the road to Mosul, the largest city that has been overrun by Islamic State forces.
When if 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," he said.
Warren says the refinery’s location is its biggest significance. The oil refinery has not worked for some time and is filled with non-operational equipment.