Erbil accuses Iraq's PMF of attacking Kurdistan region’s Khor Mor gas field

Erbil accuses Iraq's PMF of attacking Kurdistan region’s Khor Mor gas field
The Khor Mor gas field, located southwest of Sulaimaniyah, is being developed by the UAE's Dana Gas company.
6 min read
30 April, 2024
Four Yemeni nationals were killed and two others were wounded when a suicide drone hit the Khor Mor gas field in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region late on Friday, 26 April. [Getty]

Authorities in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) have implicated armed factions associated with Iraq's Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) in the recent attack on the Khor Mor gas field, resulting in four fatalities and significant material damage. 

Four Yemeni nationals were killed and two others were wounded when a suicide drone hit the Khor Mor gas field in Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan region late on Friday, 26 April, a Kurdish official told The New Arab on Sunday.  

The Khor Mor gas field, located southwest of Sulaimaniyah, is being developed by the UAE's Dana Gas company and produces natural gas for almost 80 per cent of the Kurdistan region's power plants.  

Ramik Ramazan, the mayor of Chamchamal, confirmed the casualties, stating that the victims, Yemeni experts, were working in the field.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shiaa Al-Sudani pledged Sunday to pursue those involved in the attack after the government issued a statement announcing the commencement of an investigation into the drone attack. Today, Monday, informed sources in Baghdad revealed that the President of the Kurdistan Region, Nechirvan Barzani, provided information to the Baghdad government detailing the attack and the launch location of the drone that caused four deaths, all of them Yemeni nationals working in the field.

A prominent political source in Baghdad stated that during a meeting of the ruling State Administration Coalition attended by Sudani on Saturday evening, Barzani accused armed factions affiliated with the PMF of being behind the targeting of the Khor Mor gas field and provided information confirming this accusation.

The source, speaking to Al-Arabi Al-Jadeed, TNA's Arabic sister outlet, on condition of anonymity, added that "Barzani's accusation was primarily directed towards an armed faction supported by Iran standing behind the attack, leading to controversy and debate with some of the coordination framework leaders, resulting in the meeting being concluded without reaching any results regarding the political issues for which the meeting was convened."

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The past two days have witnessed various international condemnations of the attack on the field, with calls from the United States, the European Union, and the United Kingdom to investigate the attack on the field.

In this context, Wafa Mohammed Karim, a member of the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in the Kurdistan Region, hinted at political motives behind the attack, telling Al-Arabi Al-Jadeed that "The state benefiting from the assault of the Kor Mor gas field is the one that is selling gas to Iraq for billions of dollars annually," referring to Iran, explaining that "Working on the development of this important field is against the economic interests Iran, especially this strategic field that could enable Iraq to be self-sufficient in gas in the coming years, meaning that Iraq will not need Iranian gas in the future."

Karim stated that "the armed factions with known external agendas are the ones who targeted the Khzor Mor gas field, and we have all the information about these factions and from which region the targeting operation took place, especially since this is not the first time that these factions have targeted this field, but it has happened several times before." 

He added that Barzani presented all the information and details available to the region about the factions involved in this attack and previous attacks during his meetings in Baghdad and informed PM Sudani and the Coordination Framework leaders about the need to hold these factions accountable. Otherwise, according to him, there will be security and political repercussions at the internal and external levels.

He emphasized that "despite providing all the information and evidence to the government, as well as the political forces in Baghdad, regarding the factions involved in this attack and the objectives of this attack, we do not expect there to be any governmental capability to expose these entities and hold them accountable, and the investigation will remain like previous investigations without any results, as the factions' weapons outside the state are still stronger than the state's weapons, controlling important and sensitive areas in various Iraqi cities," he said.

Political and economic motives

Ahmed Al-Harki, a leader in the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in the city of Sulaymaniyah, stated to the outlet that "The identity of the perpetrator of the attack is still unknown, but this attack is completely different from previous attacks, as it resulted in human casualties in addition to material losses at the field, marking a qualitative change in the targeting process."

 Al-Harki explained that "Iraq has been working for some time to regain its role in major projects through the Development Road project, as well as energy and gas projects, and therefore the targeting operation carries messages, perhaps from some parties that do not want an important economic role for Iraq in the coming stage, and therefore the targeting of this field and others may be repeated until the development wheel that Iraq wants to work on stops and becomes a global trade station."

However, some Kurdish political observers speculate that militia groups linked to Turkey might be behind the attack. A Kurdish source has told TNA that during Erdogan's visit to Iraq, he linked removing the ban on flights from Sulaimaniyah Airport to having a share in the Khor Mor gas field. Still, officials in the ruling PUK have rejected the suggestion. 

Meanwhile, political and security affairs researcher Yassin Aziz, speaking to the outlet, considered that the targeting of the field has political and economic motives, stating that "Internal parties serving external agendas are behind the targeting of the Khor Mor gas field to obstruct the rapprochement between Baghdad and Erbil on the gas file and prevent Iraq from achieving self-sufficiency in gas," pointing out that armed factions are the ones who carried out this act.

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He explained that the drone that targeted the gas field was launched from the vicinity of the city of Tuz Khurmatu, which is an area under the control of some armed factions known to everyone, adding that "We believe that the political cover for these factions will prevent the accountability of these armed groups working against the Iraqi state in favour of external agendas," and that vital information about these groups has reached the investigation committee by the Kurdistan region's government, but political and even governmental protection is above the investigation committees, which have not revealed any results over the past years.

During the past three years, a series of missile attacks hit the Khor Mor gas field, and the Iraqi government announced at the time the opening of an investigation into these attacks without announcing any results so far.

The gas field covers an area of 135 square kilometres, making it the largest gas producer in Iraq. Its proven reserves are 8.2 trillion cubic feet. Its production reaches 452 million cubic feet of dry gas, 15,000 barrels of condensates, and more than 1000 metric tons of liquefied petroleum gas daily.

The field produces the gas necessary to generate 4,200 megawatts of electricity daily, 2800 of which are sent to the Kurdistan Region and the rest to the governorates of Kirkuk and Nineveh.