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A deputy manager at Iraq’s Northern Gas Company was gunned down today by an unidentified group of men on the way to his office in Kirkuk, in the autonomous region of Kurdistan. According to the local police, as quoted by Reuters, Mohammed Younis and his driver were targeted from a speeding car and died instantly.
Eyewitnesses who spoke to local media said that there were three assailants in a black BMW who opened fire against Younis’ car.
So far, no group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
The autonomous region of Kurdistan is preparing for an independence vote perhaps as early as this year, despite signals from the central Iraqi government that the regional parliament, which has been paralyzed for two years now by inter-faction squabbles, cannot hold a referendum.
Tensions between Erbil and Baghdad are rising amid the drive for independence, mostly because some of Iraq’s biggest oil fields currently fall within Kurdistan Regional Government Territory. The two governments have an agreement, under which Erbil receives a portion of the central budget in exchange for part of the crude oil output but the Kurdistan authorities have more than once demonstrated that they would be much happier if they controlled the local oil riches alone.
At the same time, Iraq is planning to bump up its crude output considerably in the coming years, and the crude it pumps from the northern fields will be instruments for these plans.
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Meanwhile, there remains the IS factor: the terrorist group is perhaps what is keeping Erbil and Baghdad together in a united front against it. The Islamic State has targeted oil infrastructure in Kurdistan before, and earlier this month the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline was blown up just days after restarting shipments. Although no group claimed responsibility for the explosion, IS militants were among the likely perpetrators.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Irina is a writer for the U.S.-based Divergente LLC consulting firm with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.