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Production at an oilfield near Kirkuk, in northern Iraq, has been stopped after unidentified gunmen set at least two wells on fire on Tuesday night.
Local officials said the gunmen used improvised explosives which they set of at wells number 18, 33 and 39 in the Khabaz oil field. A fourth well was also booby trapped and the police are now working to defuse the explosives while firefighters are trying to contain the blaze, Kirkuk police chief Sarhad Qadir was quoted as saying.
An act of sabotage is suspected and perpetrators must have taken advantage of security gaps, according to police.
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The Khabaz oilfield is some 20 kilometers southwest of Kirkuk and hosts 41 oil wells. The field is run by the state-owned North Oil Company, which has its own police force.
A month ago, a similar attack took out other wells in this field.
Last year, as the Islamic State (ISIS) gained temporary control over the area surrounding Kirkuk, some oil wells we set on fire.
The Kurdish Peshmerga have largely pushed ISIS out of the area and taken over now, so the perpetrators of this latest sabotage remain unknown; however, Iraqi officials suspect ISIS.
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“It could be Da’esh (Islamic State) because the wells are located in southwestern Kirkuk, close to areas that are currently under Da’esh’s control,” Fuad Hussein, a member of Kirkuk Provincial Council (KPC) in the oil and energy committee, told the local media.
The 41 oil wells in the Khabaz oil field have a production capacity of 15,000 barrels per day. Before the attack took place on Wednesday, the production was down to 10,000 bpd, North Oil Company said.
By James Burgess of Oilprice.com
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