BAGHDAD (AP) — A week-long fight for control of Iraq's largest oil refinery continues.
A top military official says helicopter gunships today attacked what appeared to be formations of Sunni militants preparing for another assault on the facility. The country's chief military spokesman is denying reports that the refinery has fallen to the rebels.
Government air forces also reportedly bombed a town near the Syrian border, days after it was seized by Islamic extremists. A provincial government spokesman says 17 civilians were killed.
The continuing violence comes as the U.N. reports that more than 1,000 people -- most of them civilians -- have been killed in Iraq so far this month.
Secretary of State John Kerry met today with Iraq's top Kurdish leader, a day after meeting with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and other Iraqi officials in Baghdad. He had urged them to adopt new policies that would give more authority to Iraq's minority Sunnis and Kurds.
The Kurds now control the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and other areas in northern Iraq that they have sought to incorporate into their region. And the Kurdish leader appeared to be referring to those gains when he told Kerry, "We are facing a new reality, and a new Iraq."
196-c-17-(Warren Levinson, AP correspondent)-"killing of civilians"-AP correspondent Warren Levinson reports more than a thousand Iraqis have been reported killed this month, but the toll is probably much higher. (24 Jun 2014)
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137-w-35-(Mark Smith, AP White House correspondent, with Secretary of State John Kerry and Kurdish President Massoud Barzani)--Secretary of State John Kerry has been meeting with Kurdish leaders in Iraq as he presses for a new unity government to counter the onslaught by Sunni militants. AP White House Correspondent Mark Smith reports. (24 Jun 2014)
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APPHOTO XHM111: A member of the Kurdish security forces stands guard at a checkpoint on a highway between the Iraqi city of Mosul and the Kurdish city of Irbil, in the Khazer area northern Iraq, Tuesday, June 24, 2014. The president of Iraq's ethnic Kurdish region declared Tuesday that "we are facing a new reality and a new Iraq" as the country considers new leadership for its Shiite-led government as an immediate step to curb a Sunni insurgent rampage. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla) (24 Jun 2014)
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