ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Pressure from Iranian-backed Hashd al-Shaabi militia leaders shut down an investigation in Kirkuk province of oil being smuggled from Iraq to Iran, said a police source on Friday.
Security forces on the K1 – Yaychi road outside Kirkuk city arrested a driver and confiscated his Mercedes oil tanker carrying 36,000 liters of unrefined oil, known as 'black' oil, for not having documents required to transporting it, a Lieutenant Colonel from Kirkuk police told Kurdistan 24 on condition of anonymity.
According to the officer, the driver admitted after his arrest that he and others had been smuggling oil illegally from one of the oilfields.
After security forces followed information acquired during the arrest, they found a portion of the main pipeline in southwest Kirkuk province with holes bored into it, and another section of pipe welded to extract oil. Also, a trench had been dug around the pipeline, sometimes used by smugglers to collect escaping oil before being pumped out.
After few hours inspecting the area, some leaders of Shia Hashd al-Shaabi militias, also known as Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), intervened and caused the investigation to be halted.
“Because it turned out that those who were smuggling the oil illegally were working for some of the Shia militia leaders,” the police source said.
Now, he added, the case has been officially closed by Kirkuk police under the pressure of Hashd al-Shaabi leaders.
Photos below show the area of pipeline in which smugglers bored holes extract oil to be pumped into tankers, shipped, and illegally sold.
Kirkuk is a diverse province with multiple ethnic and religious communities, including Turkmen, Arabs, Christians, and Kurds, who make up a majority of the population.
Kirkuk is one of the disputed territories between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the federal government of Iraq. Historically claimed by the Kurds, it was under the protection of Kurdish Peshmerga forces from 2014, following the emergence of the Islamic State (IS, until late 2017.
On Oct. 16, Iraqi forces and Iran-backed Shia Hashd al-Shaabi militias carried out a military attack and took control of Kirkuk and other disputed territories, pushing the Peshmerga from the territories. The offensive resulted in the displacement of over 180,000 people to the Kurdistan Region, mostly from Kirkuk.
Editing by John J. Catherine
(Soran Kamaran contributed to this report)