ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Iraq’s Interior Ministry on Sunday said it had foiled an attempt by thieves planning to steal equipment from the country’s largest oil refinery, the Baiji refinery.
In an official statement following the incident, the Iraqi Interior Ministry said the country’s security forces were able to “thwart the attempt to steal equipment belonging to the Baiji refinery.”
“Our security forces successfully seized three trucks loaded with iron pipes and materials used for digging wells,” the Ministry’s statement added.
The security forces had arrested three suspects after they tried to flee the scene, abandoning their trucks in a courtyard near the town of Baiji, 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of Tikrit, the statement said.
When the Islamic State (IS) emerged in Iraq in mid-2014, the extremist group took over large swaths of territory, including the Baiji oil refinery. Iraqi forces would eventually regain control of the plant a year later but only after it suffered severe damage during the intensive fighting.
The refinery, located in Salahuddin Province, north of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, is still out of service despite the fact it has been almost three years since its recovery from the militant group. Iraqi officials say the delay is due to the theft of parts and equipment.
Before its fall to IS, the Baiji refinery was producing around 300,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd).
It is unclear when the plant will resume production, although the Iraqi government says it has begun work to revive its largest oil refinery.
Iraq is OPEC’s largest oil producer after Saudi Arabia, but the three years of war with IS as well as a significant drop in international oil prices have contributed to its failing economy.