Iraqi forces drive IS from refinery town of Beiji

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Iraqi forces drive IS from refinery town of Beiji
FALLUJAH, IRAQ - NOVEMBER 13: A member of Iraqi army aims as Iraqi army deploys artilleries for possible Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) attacks following the clashes between Iraqi army and ISIL in the Amiriyah district of Fallujah, Iraq, on November 13, 2014. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
In this Thursday, July 31, 2014 photo, a column of smoke rises from an oil refinery in Beiji, some 250 kilometers (155 miles) north of Baghdad, Iraq, after an attack by Islamic militants. June's rapid advance of the Islamic State group, which captured Iraq's second largest city of Mosul, has plunged the country into its worst crisis since the withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2011 with more than a million Iraqis now classified as internally displaced or refugees. (AP Photo)
In this Tuesday, June 17, 2014 image taken from video uploaded to a militant social media account, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, al-Qaida-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant militants arrive to the country’s largest oil refinery in Beiji, some 250 kilometers (155 miles) north of the capital, Baghdad, Iraq. Iraqi security forces battled insurgents targeting the country’s main oil refinery and said they regained partial control of a city near the Syrian border Wednesday, trying to blunt a weeklong offensive by Sunni militants who diplomats fear may have also seized some 100 foreign workers. (AP Photo via militant video)
FALLUJAH, IRAQ - NOVEMBER 13: A member of Iraqi army is seen as Iraqi army deploys artilleries for possible Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) attacks following the clashes between Iraqi army and ISIL in the Amiriyah district of Fallujah, Iraq, on November 13, 2014. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
FALLUJAH, IRAQ - NOVEMBER 13: A member of Iraqi army aims as Iraqi army deploys artilleries for possible Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) attacks following the clashes between Iraqi army and ISIL in the Amiriyah district of Fallujah, Iraq, on November 13, 2014. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
In this Thursday, July 31, 2014 photo, smoke rises from an oil refinery in Beiji, some 250 kilometers (155 miles) north of Baghdad, Iraq, after an attack by Islamic militants. June's rapid advance of the Islamic State group, which captured Iraq's second largest city of Mosul, has plunged the country into its worst crisis since the withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2011 with more than a million Iraqis now classified as internally displaced or refugees. (AP Photo)
FALLUJAH, IRAQ - NOVEMBER 13: A view of Amiriyah bridge blown up by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) during the clashes between Iraqi army and ISIL in the Amiriyah district of Fallujah, Iraq, on November 13, 2014. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
In this Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014 photo, Abdul Amir al-Shammari, Baghdad Operations Commander, speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, Iraq. As Washington warns of a drawn-out fight against the Islamic State group and the U.S. administration looks to send more American troops to help Iraq in the war against the extremists, Baghdad has offered its top war room as a model for a future joint U.S.-Iraqi command headquarters. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)
FALLUJAH, IRAQ - NOVEMBER 13: A view of Amiriyah bridge blown up by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) during the clashes between Iraqi army and ISIL in the Amiriyah district of Fallujah, Iraq, on November 13, 2014. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A Kurdish Peshmerga fighter stands guard as new equipment arrives at Kalak refinery on the outskirts of Irbil, Iraq, Monday, July 14, 2014, as Kurdish authorities are trying to help ease the fuel shortage. Islamic militants have laid siege to Iraq's largest oil refinery in the city of Beiji. (AP Photo)
New oil refinery equipment arrives at Kalak refinery on the outskirts of Irbil, Iraq, Monday, July 14, 2014, as Kurdish authorities are trying to help ease the fuel shortage. Islamic militants have laid siege to Iraq's largest oil refinery in the city of Beiji. (AP Photo)
Al-Qaeda inspired militants stand with captured Iraqi Army Humvee at a checkpoint outside Beiji refinery, some 250 kilometers (155 miles) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, June 19, 2014. The fighting at Beiji comes as Iraq has asked the U.S. for airstrikes targeting the militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. While U.S. President Barack Obama has not fully ruled out the possibility of launching airstrikes, such action is not imminent in part because intelligence agencies have been unable to identify clear targets on the ground, officials said.(AP Photo)
A column of smoke rises from Beiji oil refinery, some 250 kilometers (155 miles) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, June 19, 2014. The fighting at Beiji comes as Iraq has asked the U.S. for airstrikes targeting the militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. While U.S. President Barack Obama has not fully ruled out the possibility of launching airstrikes, such action is not imminent in part because intelligence agencies have been unable to identify clear targets on the ground, officials said.(AP Photo)
A Kurdish Peshmerga fighter stands guard as new equipment arrives at Kalak refinery on the outskirts of Irbil, Iraq, Monday, July 14, 2014, as Kurdish authorities are trying to help ease the fuel shortage. Islamic militants have laid siege to Iraq's largest oil refinery in the city of Beiji. (AP Photo)
SALAHADDIN, IRAQ - JULY 31: Smokes and flames rise from Baiji oil refinery after the attack of the groups led by Islamic state in Iraq and Syria in northern Selahaddin, Iraq on July 31, 2014. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty mages)
BAIJI, IRAQ - JULY 30: During the Eid al-Fitr, Islamic State of Iraq and Levant-led militants patrol on the roads of Baiji after they control the city in Iraq on July 30, 2014. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
FILE - In this Tuesday, July 4, 2011 photo released by the official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, then chief of Iran's Revolutionary Guard's Quds Force Gen. Ghasem Soleimani, third right, sits next to the commander of the Revolutionary Guard, Mohammad Ali Jafari, third left, in a meeting of the commanders of the Revolutionary Guard with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran, Iran. Gen. Soleimani, a powerful Iranian general, has emerged as the chief tactician in Iraqís fight against Sunni militants, working on the front lines alongside 120 advisers from his countryís Revolutionary Guard to direct Shiite militiamen and government forces in the smallest details of battle, militia commanders and government officials say. (AP Photo/Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader, File)
FILE - In this Saturday, July 12, 2014 file photo, Iraqi Shiite fighters with the "Peace Brigades" patrol during a sand storm in Samarra, Iraq. Gen. Ghasem Soleimani, a powerful Iranian general, has emerged as the chief tactician in Iraq’s fight against Sunni militants, working on the front lines alongside 120 advisers from his country’s Revolutionary Guard to direct Shiite militiamen and government forces in the smallest details of battle, militia commanders and government officials say. (AP Photo/File)
In this Monday, Oct. 27, 2014 photo, Iraqi federal policemen pose for a photograph as they arrive to join the fighting against the Islamic State group in Jurf al-Sakhar, 43 miles (70 kilometers) south of Baghdad, Iraq. Jurf al-Sakhar is part of a predominantly Sunni ribbon of territory that runs just south of Baghdad and lies on a road usually taken by Shiite pilgrims to the holy Shiite city of Karbala further south. (AP Photo)
FILE - In this Saturday, June 14, 2014 file photo, Iraqi Shiite fighters place posters showing Iran's spiritual leaders Ayatollah Khomeini, as they deploy with their weapons in Basra, Iraq. Gen. Ghasem Soleimani, a powerful Iranian general, has emerged as the chief tactician in Iraq’s fight against Sunni militants, working on the front lines alongside 120 advisers from his country’s Revolutionary Guard to direct Shiite militiamen and government forces in the smallest details of battle, militia commanders and government officials say. (AP Photo/Nabil Al-Jurani, File)
FILE - In this Saturday, July 12, 2014 file photo, Iraqi Shiite fighters with the "Peace Brigades" patrol during a sand storm in Samarra, Iraq. Gen. Ghasem Soleimani, a powerful Iranian general, has emerged as the chief tactician in Iraq’s fight against Sunni militants, working on the front lines alongside 120 advisers from his country’s Revolutionary Guard to direct Shiite militiamen and government forces in the smallest details of battle, militia commanders and government officials say. (AP Photo/File)
FILE - In this Saturday, June 14, 2014 file photo, Iraqi Shiite fighters deploy with their weapons in Basra, Iraq. Gen. Ghasem Soleimani, a powerful Iranian general, has emerged as the chief tactician in Iraq’s fight against Sunni militants, working on the front lines alongside 120 advisers from his country’s Revolutionary Guard to direct Shiite militiamen and government forces in the smallest details of battle, militia commanders and government officials say. The poster at center depicts Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. (AP Photo/Nabil Al-Jurani, File)
FILE -In this Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2014 file photo, Iraqi security forces inspect the lifeless bodies of militants from the Islamic State group after clashes, in Jurf al-Sakhar, 43 miles (70 kilometers) south of Baghdad, Iraq. The powerful Iranian general Ghasem Soleimani whose name has become synonymous with the handful of victories attributed to Iraqi ground forces. Soleimani’s ability to command the loyalty of Iraq’s various Shiite militias has become a major factor in securing the area around the capital known as the Baghdad Belt, including a number of Sunni towns that were preyed upon by the extremist group. (AP Photo, File)
FILE - In this Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014 file photo, Iraqi Shiite militiamen fire their weapons during clashes with militants from the Islamic State group, in Jurf al-Sakhar, 43 miles (70 kilometers) south of Baghdad, Iraq. The powerful Iranian general Ghasem Soleimani whose name has become synonymous with the handful of victories attributed to Iraqi ground forces. Soleimani’s ability to command the loyalty of Iraq’s various Shiite militias has become a major factor in securing the area around the capital known as the Baghdad Belt, including a number of Sunni towns that were preyed upon by the extremist group. (AP Photo, File)
ADDS TYPE OF AIRCRAFT - In this Friday, Oct. 31, 2014 photo provided by the U.S. Navy, an F-18 lands on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson in the Persian Gulf. The aircraft carrier and aircraft are deployed as part of operations targeting Islamic State group militants in Iraq and Syria. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy, John Philip Wagner Jr.)
In this Monday, Oct. 27, 2014 photo, Shiite militiamen stand guard as others pray on the front line with al-Qaida-breakaway Islamic State group in Jurf al-Sakhar, 43 miles (70 kilometers) south of Baghdad, Iraq. Jurf al-Sakhar is part of a predominantly Sunni ribbon of territory that runs just south of Baghdad and lies on a road usually taken by Shiite pilgrims to the holy Shiite city of Karbala further south. (AP Photo)
ADDS TYPE OF AIRCRAFT - In this Friday, Oct. 31, 2014 photo provided by the U.S. Navy, a E-2C Hawkeye prepares to land on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson in the Persian Gulf. The aircraft carrier and aircrafts are deployed as part of operations targeting Islamic State group militants in Iraq and Syria. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy, John Philip Wagner Jr.)
In this Monday, Oct. 27, 2014 photo, Iraqi army soldiers stand guard at the front line with al-Qaida-breakaway Islamic State group in Jurf al-Sakhar, 43 miles (70 kilometers) south of Baghdad, Iraq. Jurf al-Sakhar is part of a predominantly Sunni ribbon of territory that runs just south of Baghdad and lies on a road usually taken by Shiite pilgrims to the holy Shiite city of Karbala further south. (AP Photo)
An Iraqi man inspects a damaged vehicle in the aftermath of a car bomb explosion in Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2014. On Monday night, a car bomb blast near a line of shops and restaurants in downtown Baghdad killed more than a dozen and wounded tens, police said. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)
Civilians inspect the aftermath of a car bomb explosion in Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2014. On Monday night, a car bomb blast near a line of shops and restaurants in downtown Baghdad killed more than a dozen and wounded tens, police said. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)
Civilians inspect the aftermath of a car bomb explosion in Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2014. On Monday night, a car bomb blast near a line of shops and restaurants in downtown Baghdad killed more than a dozen and wounded tens, police said. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)
In this Monday, Oct. 27, 2014 photo, Iraqi army soldiers aim their weapons on the front line with al-Qaida-breakaway Islamic State group in Jurf al-Sakhar, 43 miles (70 kilometers) south of Baghdad, Iraq. Jurf al-Sakhar is part of a predominantly Sunni ribbon of territory that runs just south of Baghdad and lies on a road usually taken by Shiite pilgrims to the holy Shiite city of Karbala further south. (AP Photo)
In this Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014, citizens inspect the wreckage at the site of a car bomb in Sadr city, Baghdad, Iraq. After sundown, police said a car bomb exploded near small restaurants in Baghdad's eastern district of Sadr city, killing more than a dozen and wounding tens of people, Iraqi officials said. (AP Photo/Ali Abdul Hassan)
TEHRAN, IRAN - NOVEMBER 04: A Shiite Muslim man mourns during the mourning procession of Ashura on the 10th day of holy month of Muharram, the first month of Islamic Calendar, to commemorate the martyrdom of Prophet Mohammad's grandson Imam Hussein and his accompanies, who were killed in the battle of Karbala in modern day Iraq in 680 AD, in Tehran Iran, on November 04, 2014. (Photo by Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
TEHRAN, IRAN - NOVEMBER 04: Iranian Shiite Muslim devotee men flagellate themselves with chains during the mourning procession of Ashura on the 10th day of holy month of Muharram, the first month of Islamic Calendar, to commemorate the martyrdom of Prophet Mohammad's grandson Imam Hussein and his accompanies, who were killed in the battle of Karbala in modern day Iraq in 680 AD, in Tehran, Iran on November 04, 2014. (Photo by Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
RAWALPINDI, PAKISTAN - NOVEMBER 04: Pakistani security forces stand alert during the mourning procession of Ashura on the 10th day of holy month of Muharram, the first month of Islamic Calendar, to commemorate the martyrdom of Prophet Mohammad's grandson Imam Hussein and his accompanies, who were killed in the battle of Karbala in modern day Iraq in 680 AD, in Rawalpindi city of northern Punjab province in Pakistan, on November 04, 2014. (Photo by Mohammad Reza/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
RAWALPINDI, PAKISTAN - NOVEMBER 04: Pakistani security forces stand alert during the mourning procession of Ashura on the 10th day of holy month of Muharram, the first month of Islamic Calendar, to commemorate the martyrdom of Prophet Mohammad's grandson Imam Hussein and his accompanies, who were killed in the battle of Karbala in modern day Iraq in 680 AD, in Rawalpindi city of northern Punjab province in Pakistan, on November 04, 2014. (Photo by Mohammad Reza/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Iraqi Shiite Muslims gather in front of the shrine of Imam Hussein -one of Shiite Islam's most revered figures- during the Ashura commemorations that mark his killing on November 4, 2014 in the central city of Karbala 80 km (50 miles) southwest of Baghdad. Hundreds of thousands of Shiite pilgrims packed the Iraqi shrine city of Karbala Tuesday, braving the threat of jihadist attack to mark one of the holiest days of their faith. AFP PHOTO /MOHAMMED SAWAF (Photo credit should read MOHAMMED SAWAF/AFP/Getty Images)
Iraqi soldiers stand guard as Shiite Muslims attend the reenactment of the Battle of Karbala as part of the Ashura commemorations on November 4, 2014 in the capital Baghdad. Ashura commemorates the killing of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Mohammed, by the army of the Caliph Yazid in 680 AD, the formative event in Shiite Islam. AFP PHOTO /AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
Kurdish peshmerga fighters at their camp on November 3, 2014 in Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq. Kurdish peshmerga forces streamed across the Syrian border from Turkey on October 31 to bolster defenders in the key border town of Kobane which is under assault by Islamic State group jihadists. AFP PHOTO / SAFIN HAMED (Photo credit should read SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images)
Kurdish peshmerga fighters train with weapons at their camp on November 3, 2014 in Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq. Kurdish peshmerga forces streamed across the Syrian border from Turkey on October 31 to bolster defenders in the key border town of Kobane which is under assault by Islamic State group jihadists. AFP PHOTO / SAFIN HAMED (Photo credit should read SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images)
Kurdish peshmerga fighters train in the grounds of their camp on November 3, 2014 in Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq. Kurdish peshmerga forces streamed across the Syrian border from Turkey on October 31 to bolster defenders in the key border town of Kobane which is under assault by Islamic State group jihadists. AFP PHOTO / SAFIN HAMED (Photo credit should read SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images)
In this Tuesday, Oct . 7, 2014 photo, Iraqi Shiite militiamen aim their weapons during clashes with militants from the Islamic State group, in Jurf al-Sakhar, about 43 miles (70 kilometers) southwest of Baghdad, Iraq. (AP Photo)
In this Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014 photo, Iraqi Shiite militiamen fire their weapons during clashes with militants from the Islamic State group, in Jurf al-Sakhar, 43 miles (70 kilometers) south of Baghdad, Iraq. (AP Photo)
In this Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014 photo, an Iraqi Shiite militiaman aims his weapon after clashes with militants from the Islamic State group, in Jurf al-Sakhar, 43 miles (70 kilometers) south of Baghdad, Iraq. (AP Photo)
In this Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014 photo, an Iraqi Shiite militiamen aim their weapons during clashes with militants from the Islamic State group, in Jurf al-Sakhar, 43 miles (70 kilometers) south of Baghdad, Iraq. (AP Photo)
In this Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014 photo, an Iraqi Shiite militiaman takes cover after clashes with militants from the Islamic State group, in Jurf al-Sakhar, 43 miles (70 kilometers) south of Baghdad, Iraq. (AP Photo)
In this Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014 photo, an Iraqi Shiite militiaman aims his weapon after clashes with militants from the Islamic State group, in Jurf al-Sakhar, 43 miles (70 kilometers) south of Baghdad, Iraq. (AP Photo)
In this Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014 photo, fighters from a militant Shiite group known as, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, or League of the Righteous, prepare for clashes with militants from the Islamic State group on the front line in Jurf al-Sakhar, 43 miles (70 kilometers) south of Baghdad, Iraq. (AP Photo)
Iraq Shiite fighters make their way to the front line to fight militants from the extremist Islamic State group in Jurf al-Sakhar, 43 miles (70 kilometers) south of Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, Aug 18, 2014. Fighters of the voluntary armed group formed after the radical Shiite cleric Muqtatda al-Sadr called to protect holy shrines against possible attacks by Sunni militants. (AP Photo/ Hadi MIzban)
Men accused by the Iraqi authorities of being members of al-Qaida in Iraq are seen blindfolded and handcuffed in Jurf al-Sakhar, 43 miles (70 kilometers) south of Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2011. Iraqi officials said special operations commandos arrested the nine suspected al-Qaida insurgents during recent operations in Jurf al-Sakhar. (AP Photo/Loay Hameed)
BAGHDAD, IRAQ - OCTOBER 25: Iraqi government forces and Shiite militias launch an operation against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants to took control of Jurf al-Sakhar south of Baghdad, Iraq on October 25, 2014. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
BAGHDAD, IRAQ - OCTOBER 25: Iraqi government forces and Shiite militias launch an operation against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants to took control of Jurf al-Sakhar south of Baghdad, Iraq on October 25, 2014. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
BAGHDAD, IRAQ - OCTOBER 25: Iraqi government forces and Shiite militias launch an operation against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants to took control of Jurf al-Sakhar south of Baghdad, Iraq on October 25, 2014. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
BAGHDAD, IRAQ - OCTOBER 25: Iraqi government forces and Shiite militias launch an operation against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants to took control of Jurf al-Sakhar south of Baghdad, Iraq on October 25, 2014. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
BAGHDAD, IRAQ - OCTOBER 25: Iraqi government forces and Shiite militias launch an operation against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants to took control of Jurf al-Sakhar south of Baghdad, Iraq on October 25, 2014. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
BAGHDAD, IRAQ - AUGUST 17 : Iraqi forces patrol around Jurf al-Sakhar town in Iraqi province of Babil after Iraqi army announced a military operation against Islamic State (IS), formerly known as ISIL in Jurf al-Sakhar town on August 17, 2014. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
BAGHDAD, IRAQ - AUGUST 17 : Iraqi forces patrol around Jurf al-Sakhar town in Iraqi province of Babil after Iraqi army announced a military operation against Islamic State (IS), formerly known as ISIL in Jurf al-Sakhar town on August 17, 2014. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
BAGHDAD, IRAQ - OCTOBER 25: Iraqi government forces and Shiite militias launch an operation against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants to took control of Jurf al-Sakhar south of Baghdad, Iraq on October 25, 2014. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Civilians inspect a destroyed tent used for serving Shiite pilgrims the morning after a car bombing in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, Nov. 3, 2014. A car bomb targeting Shiite pilgrims Killed and wounded scores of people late Sunday in Baghdad's eastern district of Sadr City, authorities said. (AP Photo/Ali Abdul Hassan)
FILE - In this Saturday, July 12, 2014 file photo, an Iraqi Shiite fighter with the "Peace Brigades" patrols during a sand storm in Samarra, Iraq. Gen. Ghasem Soleimani, a powerful Iranian general, has emerged as the chief tactician in Iraq’s fight against Sunni militants, working on the front lines alongside 120 advisers from his country’s Revolutionary Guard to direct Shiite militiamen and government forces in the smallest details of battle, militia commanders and government officials say. (AP Photo/File)
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BAGHDAD (AP) -- Iraqi government forces on Friday drove Islamic State militants out from their remaining strongholds inside the oil refinery town of Beiji, two security official said, in a key victory over the terror group that has captured much of northern and western Iraq in a stunning summer offensive.

The Iraqi troops, backed by allied Sunni militiamen, also lifted the Islamic State group's siege of the oil refinery, Iraq's largest, and hoisted Iraq's red, white and black flags atop the sprawling complex hosting the facility.

Reached by telephone in Beiji, the officials said the army used loudspeakers to warn the small number of residents still holed up in the town to stay indoors while bomb squads detonated booby-trapped houses and remaining bombs planted on the roads. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

State Iraqi television also reported the "liberation of Beiji," quoting the top army commander there, Gen. Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi.

Islamic State extremists captured Beiji during their summer offensive. The Iraqi forces had collapsed in the face of that onslaught but have since partially regrouped and went on the offensive, with Beiji the biggest locality they have recaptured to date.

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Since August, the Iraqi military is being aided by airstrikes by a U.S.-led coalition targeting Islamic State positions in Iraq and in neighboring Syria.

The two officials said fierce battles were fought early on Friday around the refinery and that government warplanes strafed Islamic State positions around the facility on the northern edge of the town. The refinery's capacity of some 320,000 barrels a day accounts for a quarter of Iraq's refining capacity.

Beiji will now likely be a base for staging a push to take back from the Islamic State Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit to the south.

Government forces tried to retake Tikrit earlier this year, but their campaign stalled and the city remains in Islamic State hands.

The Beiji developments came just two days after Shiite Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered a major shakeup in the military in what an official government statement described as an effort to eradicate corruption and improve its capabilities.

On Wednesday, 26 officers were relieved of duty, 10 were retired and 18 new commanders were appointed.

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