Iraqi soldiers and helicopter gunships battled Sunni militants for a third day on Thursday for control of Iraq’s largest oil refinery. Its loss to the militants would be a devastating symbol of the Baghdad government’s powerlessness in the face of a determined insurgency hostile to the West. The two sides held different parts of the sprawling Beiji facility, which extends over several square kilometers of desert. The facility accounts for just over a quarter of the country’s entire refining capacity and goes toward domestic consumption for things like gasoline, cooking oil and fuel for power stations.
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