Kurdish forces seize oil wells from Iraqi control

The Kurdistan Regional Government denied "all allegations and rumors" in a statement on its official website.

A security member walks as flames and smoke rising from oil wells are seen in the distance at the Bai Hassan oilfield, which was attacked by militants, close to the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, Iraq, May 5, 2021. (photo credit: REUTERS/AKO RASHEED)
A security member walks as flames and smoke rising from oil wells are seen in the distance at the Bai Hassan oilfield, which was attacked by militants, close to the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, Iraq, May 5, 2021.
(photo credit: REUTERS/AKO RASHEED)

Forces from the regional Kurdish government have taken control of some oil wells in northern Kirkuk, Iraq's state-run North Oil Company said in a statement on Saturday, but the Kurdish government denied this.

It said the forces arrived with a technical team from the Kurdish region and took over some of the oil wells in the Bai Hassan oilfield, which is controlled by the North Oil Company.

The statement did not say when the forces arrived and whether they were still there.

The Kurdistan Regional Government denied in a statement on its official website "all allegations and rumors which claim that the regional government had occupied and took over oilfields in Bai Hassan ... with the support of an armed force."

It added, "Public wealth is owned by all Iraqis according to the Iraqi constitution and not one company... If it (North Oil Company) was keen to solve problems, there must be a legislation of the oil and gas law based on the constitution."

Flames and smoke rise from oil wells inside the Bai Hassan oilfield, which was attacked by militants, close to the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, Iraq, May 5, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/AKO RASHEED)Flames and smoke rise from oil wells inside the Bai Hassan oilfield, which was attacked by militants, close to the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, Iraq, May 5, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/AKO RASHEED)

It also said such accusations were aimed at creating chaos.

Iraqi forces took back control of Kirkuk oilfields from the Kurds in 2017 following a referendum on Kurdish independence.

Baghdad responded to the plebiscite, in which Kurds overwhelmingly voted for independence, by dislodging Kurdish Peshmerga fighters from territories claimed by both Baghdad and the Kurds, including the oil city of Kirkuk.

Kirkuk’s oilfields had been under Kurdish control since 2014, when the Iraqi army collapsed in the face of Islamic State. The Kurdish move prevented the militants from seizing the region’s oilfields.