Kurdish forces seize Kirkuk oil facility demanding Iraq build a refinery

A worker checks the valves at Al-Sheiba oil refinery in Basra, Iraq, January 26, 2016. REUTERS/Essam Al-Sudani/File Photo

(Reuters) Kurdish forces have seized an oil facility in Kirkuk to send a message to the Iraqi government to build a refinery, Kurdish official Aso Mamand told Reuters on Thursday.

Oil flows from the facility have resumed after being temporarily disrupted, an official at Iraq’s North Oil Company said.

However, Mamand said Kurdish forces would stop flows again unless their demands were met within a week.

Oil pumping from Iraq’s northern Kirkuk fields stopped on Thursday after Kurdish forces were deployed in the area to search for explosives said to have been planted by Islamic State, sources from the Kurdish security forces and oil executives said.

“They ordered the shutdown of the pumping station for security reasons and that caused a halt of Kirkuk oil exports to Turkey,” through a pipeline that crosses Kurdish territory, a senior executive from the state-run North Oil Company said.

The executive was referring to Kurdish security forces who have controlled the area since 2014, when the Iraqi army withdrew in the face of Islamic State’s advance. A Kurdish security officer confirmed taking control of the oil pumping station.

The Kirkuk fields were pumping around 120,000 barrels per day in the pipeline before the shutdown, the oil executive said.

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