IS Seizes Oil Station in N. Iraq

IS Seizes Oil Station in N. IraqIS Seizes Oil Station in N. Iraq

Islamic State militants on Saturday seized a small crude oil station near the northern Iraqi city Kirkuk where 15 employees were working, and explosions in and around the capital Baghdad killed at least nine people.

Two officials from the state-run North Oil Co. confirmed the militants seized a crude oil separation unit in Khabbaz and said 15 oil workers were missing after the company lost contact with them, Reuters reported.

“We received a call from one of the workers saying dozens of IS insurgents were surrounding the facility and asking workers to leave the premises. We lost contact and now the workers might be taken hostage,” an engineer from the oil station said.

The IS seized at least four small oilfields when it overran large areas of northern Iraq last summer, and began selling crude oil and gasoline to finance their operations.

IS forces attacked regional Kurdish fighters southwest of Kirkuk on Friday, seizing some areas including parts of the Khabbaz oilfields.

Kurdish peshmerga forces sought to push back IS in further fighting near Khabbaz on Saturday, Kurdish military sources said.

Khabbaz is a small oilfield 20 kilometers southwest of Kirkuk with a maximum production capacity of 15,000 barrels per day. It was producing around 10,000 bpd before the attack.

IS Expert Killed

Also on Saturday, a chemical weapons expert with the IS was killed in an airstrike, the US military said. Abu Malik’s training provided IS with “expertise to pursue a chemical weapons capability”, a statement said.

He served as a chemical weapons engineer under former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, before joining al-Qaeda in Iraq and then IS, according to US officials.

Malik was killed in a raid near Mosul on 24 January, according to the US. There have been frequent reports of IS using chlorine gas, but no evidence the group has accumulated a significant chemical weapons cache.

Last year, Iraqi police officers suffered from dizziness and vomiting after clashing with insurgents north of Baghdad. It was thought chlorine gas may have been to blame.

Chlorine gas is classified as a “choking agent”, burning the lungs when inhaled in large quantities. But it is not as dangerous as nerve gases.

The US and its allies has been targeting IS positions in Iraq and Syria since last August, destroying military equipment and killing the group’s fighters.