Armed Iraqi Kurdish force storms office, seizes hundreds of deed records for gas-rich area
An armed force raided land registry offices in the town of Chamchamal in Iraqi Kurdistan on Thursday, seizing deeds related to an area that contains the largest natural gas field in the Kurdistan Region, officials said.
They forcibly took hundreds of documents for land in Qadir Karam, an energy-rich sub-district of the Sulaymaniyah governorate that contains the Khor Mor and Chemchemal natural gas fields, among others.
The armed group, as yet not publicly named by officials, "asked the director to give them the land dossiers of the Qadir Karam area without having any legal or formal permission," the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) justice ministry said of the incident in a statement.
"After the director refused their demand, the force broke into the room in which the dossiers are kept and took nearly 350-400 deed records related to Qadir Karam," the statement read.
The armed group, which the statement said was made up of around 50 people, also took the memory cards from all surveillance cameras at the scene.
The presidency of the Kurdistan Region’s public prosecution said in a statement on Saturday that they filed a suit against the perpetrators, without naming them.
Justice ministry spokesperson Nariman Talib declined to disclose further information on the incident when contacted by The New Arab about the incident.
The New Arab also reached out to Chamchamal mayor Ramak Ramazan and West Sulaimaniyah security directorate spokesperson Rezhin Salih, but both declined to comment.
The distribution of energy revenues has long been a source of tension between the Kurdistan Region's two most powerful parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). Alongside the smaller Change Movement (Gorran), the KDP and PUK are part of the KRG.
In a recent interview with Iraq Oil Report, PUK president Bafel Talabani said that he is personally opposed to the KRG's plans to build new gas pipelines that might be used to export gas to Turkey in the future.
He said that the KRG's natural resources ministry had given the contract for establishing a network of gas pipelines to KAR Group, a Kurdish company believed to have close ties to the KDP, without tender.
The already fraught tensions between the KDP and the PUK deepened after of the assassination of Hawkar Abdullah Rasoul, a former colonel in the ranks of PUK's Counter-Terrorism Group (CTG), in October.
The KDP accuses the PUK of being behind the killing - a claim the PUK denies.
As a consequence of the killing, an Erbil court issued arrest warrants for the PUK president and his brother, KRG deputy prime minister Qubad Talabani, who is now boycotting the regular sessions of the KRG Council of Ministers.