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The New Arab Staff

Iraqi army launches military operation to secure oil wells in Kirkuk

The operation was launched after a string of IS attacks in the area [Getty]

Date of publication: 12 July, 2020

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A number of security forces will take part in a new military campaign against Islamic State sleeper cells in the oil-rich Kirkuk governorate, Iraqi authorities confirmed on Saturday.
Iraq's national army has launched a military operation to secure oil wells in Kirkuk, authorities confirmed on Saturday.

The commander of the army Lieutenant General Saad Harbiya said the operation was in response to attacks by "terrorist" organisations in the oil-rich northwest province, namely the Islamic State militant group.

The offensive was designed to "chase the remnants" of IS, while imposing security and stability in the Dibis district of the Kirkuk governorate, as well as securing its oil installations.

First Lieutenant Hamdan Al-Obeidi confirmed forces from the army, the federal police and the Hashed al-Ashaeri (tribal mobilisation forces), were taking part in the operation.

The latest developments came following increasing attacks by IS militants on oil transportation lines in the area, where more than 370,000 barrels of oil is produced per day.

IS militants took over much of Syria and Iraq in 2014, massacring thousands civilians and prisoners of war.

They controlled territory equivalent to the size of the UK until a US-backed assault by the Iraqi military, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces and other groups saw the last IS outpost in eastern Syria fall last year.

However, analysts believe the militant organisation is taking advantage of the coronavirus lockdown, coalition troop withdrawals and political stagnation in Baghdad to ramp up its activities.

In May, the Iraqi army announced a similar operation against remnants of the Islamic State group targeting the militants in the desert areas of the country.

"Under the supervision of the Joint Operations Command, Operation Desert Lions will search the areas of Wadi Houran, Husayniyyat, Al-Kara, H2, and Wadi al-Hallcom, all the way to international borders," the statement said.

The operation was launched to "enhance security and stability in these areas, to pursue terrorist elements and to arrest those wanted", it added.

Earlier this month, engaged in yet another operation against the IS militant group in the northern suburbs of Baghdad.

A statement from the Iraqi government said that “Prime Minister Mustafa Kadhimi ordered the implementation of a large-scale operation in the north of Baghdad”.

The statement added the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) militia group would take part in the operation, as well as Iraqi special forces, federal police, and air support units.

Security sources said that the operation would not only target IS but militias who have previously targeted American bases with rockets.

Baghdad is relatively calm compared to northern and central provinces of Iraq which were formerly controlled by IS.

An officer from the Baghdad Operations Command, who preferred to remain anonymous told The New Arab’s Arabic-language service that the new operation would focus on suburbs and rural areas north of Baghdad where "armed factions are present".

He said that the operation would "comb and survey wide areas of agricultural land where armed factions manoeuvre and strike the Taji Airbase, where American soldiers are located, and other American facilities".

"The operation also aims to cleanse the area of any remnants of IS," the officer added, saying that the militias operating in the area had fixed bases, but were not registered as part of the PMF militia coalition.

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