IRAQ plunged further into chaos last night after militants from the Islamic State of Iraq in the Levant (Isis) seized control of a chemical weapons facility containing a stockpile of Saddam Hussain’s old munitions.
The news prompted US President Barack Obama to announce he will send up to 300 military advisers to train Iraqi forces in the fractured region, despite a warning from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that he would not stand down in order to secure US military support.
Obama said American forces would not return to ground combat in the country but that he would take “targeted military action” against Isis. US advisers said they did not believe militants could make a weapon from material stored at the chemical facility.
Heavy fighting continued across northern Iraq and closer to the capital Baghdad, as militants from the Al Qaeda splinter group battled Iraqi government forces for control of the Baiji oil refinery, the biggest in the country. As a result, the price of Brent crude oil rose still further to reach a nine-month high at $114.97 a barrel. More oil workers were evacuated from sites around the country yesterday.
Prime Minister David Cameron said 14 people had already had their passports taken away as a result of terrorist acts abroad, largely in Syria. “There is no doubt the government of Iraq has not given enough attention to healing sectarian divides,” he added.
Foreign secretary William Hague said the UK would not send troops to Iraq but could help in other ways, such as offering anti-terrorism expertise.