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Iraqi Army troops have surrounded an oil refinery in the town of al-Qayyara, 40 miles out of ISIS-held Mosul, as they prepare for an assault on Iraq’s once second-largest city to try to drive the Islamic State militants out of it.
The Jihadists, who regularly smuggled tankers out of the fields around al-Qayyara, are now setting oil tankers ablaze in order to hamper the visibility of the advancing Iraqi Army.
The Iraqi Army had retaken the al-Qayyara air base in July, which could be of enormous help in the attack on Mosul, which had fallen to ISIS in June 2014.
So far the Iraqi Army has pushed ISIS out of the major cities of Tikrit, Ramadi and Fallujah.
General Najim al-Jobouri, the commander of Iraq's operations in the Nineveh province, told CNN that it seems ISIS has weakened. Most of the ISIS fighters were foreign nationals before, and now the militants are a mix of foreigners and locals, al-Jobouri noted.
This may be a piece of positive news for the army troops in the looming battle, but as in every battle in a war, fears of civilian lives lost are also looming large. The U.N. Refugee Agency UNHCR warned on Tuesday that it was preparing for massive displacement from Mosul.
Just last week, ISIS was hit hard in the very same province of Nineveh, when U.S.-led coalition forces struck a convoy of ISIS tankers, dealing yet another blow on the terrorist group’s oil infrastructure.
In July, ISIS set five oil wells in Mosul on fire in an attempt to stop the Iraqi Army, which had been steadily advancing towards the city.
Most recently, Iraq has reached an agreement with the Kurdistan Regional Government to resume crude oil exports from three fields in the Kirkuk region, which will add some 150,000 barrels per day to the total exported by OPEC’s second-largest producer by the end of this week.
Iraq is also moving to increase its oil output ahead of the OPEC meeting slated for September 26-28 in Algiers.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews.