Militants attack Iraq's largest oil refinery
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants in Iraq attacked the country's biggest oil refinery on Wednesday, media reports said.
"Fighting has engulfed much of the north, with the ISIL seizing control of Iraq's largest oil refinery after a successive day of heavy clashes," Al Jazeera reported.
The fighters reportedly attacked parts of the Baiji refinery complex, leading to casualties among security forces personnel.
Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the top United Nations envoy in Iraq are urging the country's leaders to come together to address the rapidly deteriorating security situation and prevent sectarian reprisals amid the ongoing violence.
"I am deeply concerned about the rapidly deteriorating security situation in Iraq, including the reports of mass summary executions by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)," Mr. Ban told reporters in Geneva Tuesday
"There is a real risk of further sectarian violence on a massive scale, within Iraq and beyond its borders," he added.
The security situation in Iraq has continued to deteriorate following last week's capture of Mosul and other population centres by forces allied with ISIL. The violence has uprooted hundreds of thousands of people and has been marked by numerous human rights violations.
"I encourage all Iraqi leaders - political, military, religious and community - to ensure that their followers avoid acts of reprisal and come together in an inclusive spirit to address this serious threat to the country," stated the UN chief, who has spoken to Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, as well as leaders in Turkey, Iran and other areas about the crisis.
"What is important at this time," he added, "is that the Iraqi Government should have one State, whether they are Sunnis or Shi'ites or Kurds, they should be able to harmoniously live together, respecting and upholding human rights and values of the United Nations."
The Secretary-General's Special Representative and head of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), Nickolay Mladenov, is encouraging political leaders to swiftly come together and agree on a national security plan to address the terrorist threat.
The Mission said thousands of families have reportedly fled violence in the north-western town of Tal Afar. Many displaced families are currently homeless and require urgent assistance, including access to food, water and shelter.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that the number of displaced people arriving in the Kurdish region of Iraq continues to increase, with some 3,000 families arriving overnight. In total, 325,000 displaced people, out of the 500,000 displaced from Mosul, have arrived in the Kurdistan Region since 6 June.
UN agencies are continuing to scale-up assistance to respond to the growing number of displaced people. The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and its partners are carrying out emergency immunization campaignsagainst measles and polio to address low immunity levels among displaced families.
UNICEF is also calling for safe humanitarian corridors, where local authorities and the UN can work to facilitate more access to people in need in Mosul and other areas, especially along the border.
Also, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that damage to the health infrastructure and health facilities in the affected areas could lead to a bigger health care crisis and severely hamper people's access to life-saving treatment.
Amid the ongoing turmoil, Irina Bokova, Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), called on all Iraqis to unite in protection of their cultural heritage. Fearing it will be looted and destroyed, just as it was several years ago in Iraq and again during the recent tragic events in Syria, she reminded all that Iraq's cultural heritage "represents a unique testimony of humanity, of the origins of our civilization, and of inter-ethnic and inter-religious coexistence."
(Posted on 18-06-2014)
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